4.5 out 5 stars
If it was only the performance of Andrew Garfield that drove this film, it would be worth seeing this incredible salute to the creator of Rent, Jonathan Larson. Yet, there is so much more to this story than one man’s achievement. It is not merely a tribute to a talented artist who died very young of an aortic aneurysm. Tick,Tick..BOOM! is the feature film directorial debut of Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton), who manages to honor the memory of a gifted composer while showing gratitude to him for the musicals he left behind.
Originally, Larson created this as a stage production before his breakthrough hit, Rent, which served as a semi-autobiographical look at his creative process. Instead of keeping it contained to the stage, Miranda interweaves the inspirational events behind the scenes of this artist’s work development. This project leaves the audience to determine which components are actually biographical and where the theatrical magic takes over. It points towards the influences for his award-winning stage production that would break box office records and impact a generation of theatergoers.
As most composers' lives begin, Jon Larson existed in a bohemian lifestyle on the poorer side of New York City. Beloved by all who came into his relational orbit, the musician managed to surround himself with talented individuals who hoped to see his genius performed on the Broadway stage. As he approaches his 30th birthday, Jon prepares to debut his music before some of the most influential individuals in the business. The critical component that the starving artist had to complete was to compose the song that ties the whole production together. He works at the local diner and tries to maintain his relationship with his girlfriend Susan (Alexandra Shipp). As the personal preparations commence and he tries to keep his electricity on in the flat, the genuine threat of AIDS ravages the industry. In his latest production, everything gets played out in his personal and professional drama as he attempts to narrate the messy and magical aspects that worked within his ingenious mind.
What will be discombobulating for many viewers is watching Andrew Garfield sing, play the piano and perform throughout it all. His talents will awe all who come along and join him in telling the story of his alter-ego Jon Larson. Despite being known as Spiderman to many, this could be the role that wins him multiple awards and even more for Lin-Manuel Miranda. As an actor, Garfield has managed to show off his talents through numerous films over the years. Yet, this has to be the one that will prove that he deserves more attention and top billing for the years ahead. Clearly, he is not the only stand out in this film as he is surrounded by an exceptionally talented cast, who are all supported by the strong storytelling abilities of the first-time director. Miranda manages to capture the heart of this sector of the arts community while focussing on this talented young composer.
Some of the subject matter will be confronting for many outside of the performing arts. Still, the realities of the disease that has impacted multiple generations should not be shied away from in this story. Yet, this is merely one aspect of this narrative. The true focus is the music and showing the importance of continuing on regardless of the difficulties in life. Steven Levenson’s (Dear Evan Hansen) screenplay does a wonderful job weaving Larson’s life and music into this film. One that needs to be on everyone’s watchlist as award season rolls around. Especially those who love musical theatre and know the inner workings of the creatives behind these masterworks.
Reel Dialogue: Do you have to love musicals to appreciate Tick, Tick… BOOM!?
No, but it might make you appreciate the film and even your very existence. Know that the artistry of Lin-Manuel Miranda's film makes Jon Larson’s life accessible for anyone. It is no different than attending a musical at the theatre, walking through a sculpture garden, enjoying a well-produced film or even going through the local botanical gardens. Art comes in various forms, and the appreciation manifests itself in different ways, too. It is why some love contemporary dance and others only can appreciate classical theatre.
The deeper question is why do humans create art at all? It is a complex idea to consider, but the simple but profound answer is that a creative God forms us. The true master artist inspires the best of art. The human form and the rest of nature arouse the artist in all of us because it is part of our very DNA. The created are creative because we are the artistry of the master creator.
'But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.' - Isaiah 64:8