Friday, January 7, 2022

Tick, Tick...Boom!

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Vanessa Hudgens, Robin de Jesus
Director: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Running Time: PG-13
Rating: 1 hour, 55 minutes

Finally. A movie musical I can get behind. I'm obviously seeing all the musicals that are adapted for the big screen, but they often disappoint. Not "Tick, Tick...Boom!" however. Maybe I'm biased because "Rent" altered me when I was 15 years old. Or maybe it's just a really touching story with beautiful songs, honest acting and a larger message about the world. Either way, this film is not to be missed.

Andrew Garfield surprised me with his portrayal of real-life musical theatre composer Jonathan Larson, whom we meet the week leading up to his 30th birthday. Garfield's performance is genuine and he has great chemistry with his co-stars, particularly Alexandra Shipp, who plays his girlfriend Susan, and Robin de Jesus, who plays his best friend Michael. Larson is struggling to finish his musical in time for a showcase that will be attended by producers, writers and other influential theatre folk. He's also put pressure on himself to accomplish "something" by the time he turns 30. His creativity seems stunted when he sits down to write, yet we see him frolicking all over his apartment and NYC singing songs about sugar and the bohemian life (cue "La Vie Boheme," anyone?)

Larson stays committed to his art while many people in his life move on to more professional jobs. We also see many people in his life being affected by the AIDS epidemic. His agent, played by the always fabulous Judith Light, encourages him to write what he knows. Thus is the catalyst for his beloved musical "Rent". I also enjoyed the few brief moments with Stephen Sondheim, played by Bradley Whitford, who serves as an inspiration and mentor to Larson. One song in particular features some very recognizable Broadway stars like Bebe Neuwirth and Lin-Manuel himself. Blink and you'll miss Bernadette Peters.

You'll find yourself bopping along to the upbeat tunes and getting chills during the ballads. I'm grateful that Larson never gave up on his dream, though he never got to see it fully realized (Larson died of an aortic dissection the night before "Rent" premiered). His commentary on the world combined with his unparalleled talent for "lyric and tune" as Sondheim remarked, truly made him the voice of a generation. This film is a fitting and beautiful tribute to this creative genius.

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