- Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesus, Vanessa Hudgens
- Written by
- Steven Levenson
- Directed by
- Lin-Manuel Miranda
- Run Time 1hr 55min
- Release Date November 19th 2021
The majority of people see the artist’s final work. Whether that artist is satisfied with it or not (usually not), there it is, for all to see. What is rarely displayed is what it took to get to what ends up on the canvas, the screen, the stage, the page, the street corner. The phrase “starving artist” is thrown around a lot, however few care to know about the actual struggles of the artist. What it takes and what they endure to create something that is simmering within their soul for years, sometimes even decades. Only to present it to the world as a window into their very soul, which is one of the bravest things any artist can do. But along with that, there is the struggle of the search. The search for a truth, an inner truth as you attempt to discover the truth that is all around you. All this is a long-winded way of saying that director Lin-Manuel Miranda explores all of these themes in his directorial debut tick, tick…Boom!
Jonathan Larson (Andrew Garfield) is living the stereotypical life of an artist in New York in the 90’s. He lives in a hole of an apartment, works long hours at a dinner, and aspires to one day be on Broadway with the first musical that he has written. He wows his co-workers, his life-long friend Michael (Robin de Jesus), and his girlfriend Susan (Alexandra Shipp) with his ability to make up songs out of thin air that everyone can sing along with. As he struggles to balance his relationships with his life’s work, while trying to survive in the big city, knowing that his big break is just around the corner he starts to unravel. Soon sacrifices are made that can’t be undone, and as he pushes himself to his limits, he discovers what is all around him is could very well be the true inspiration he’s longed for.
I simply loved tick, tick…Boom!. It hits all of my sweet spots, interesting music, fun visuals, great performances, but most of all a glimpse of the creative process. As someone who tried his hand at short-story writing, the great American novel, screenwriting and yes, even a musical. I can relate to wanting so desperately to write, but finding anything and everything to avoid actually writing. Director Miranda leans hard on this as he bounces from Larson’s final stage performance to the moments that inspired it, along with breaking of the fourth wall. Some of the quick cuts have that music video vibe to it, which manage to both help and hurt the film as there are times where you feel a bit of the drag. Though it never lasts too long as musical number comes along right behind it to knock you flat. Garfield is phenomenal as the character of real life creator of Rent Larson and plays to most of his strengths as an actor. And his singing comes off so natural in any setting he fits right along with a musical veteran like Vanessa Hudgens who pops in for several musical numbers.
Writer Steven Levenson keeps the story moving but does fall in the realm of the familiar as Larson does what a lot of artists do. Tortures himself as he pushes away the ones that he cares about, and ones that care about him. Miranda plays to his strengths as a creative, and as someone who knows the struggles of writing a musical when nobody knows your name. Since the music is all Larson’s, Miranda can focus on the visuals and how to bring it all together. As a first out the gate tick, tick…Boom! is a breakout film for someone who made his “Boom!” on Broadway who now has his sights set on Hollywood. I imagine it won’t take much more “ticks” to go from legend of the stage to legend of the screen.