This directorial debut from Lin-Manuel Miranda shows great sensitivity when handling Jonathan Larson’s story – but can feel a little clinical in places.
Ok so I’m extremely late to the party – but I have finally managed to find the time to sit down and take in this humane and sensitive film based on Jonathan Larson’s musical of the same name – a semi-autobiographical story that sees the central character trying to make his way into musical theatre with the creation of Superbia as well getting to grips with the idea of turning 30 (which as someone who is now in her 30’s is not as scary as it sounds!).
Directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, it is a very understated film in terms of style – really allowing the character Jon take centre stage and to explore his genius and passion which turns to obsession and almost costing him everything that he values. By doing this and framing the whole film as a combination of reflecting on the past as well as a performance in a theatre, there is real depth and understanding that comes through brilliantly, particularly when Jon realises just how focused he has been about his work he has lost all awareness of the world and the people who support him in several heartbreaking moments.
But the film also has a different level (which I’m sure that Lin-Manuel Miranda can relate to) in terms of the struggle to get a musical from the page to Broadway – the hard work, the dedication and energy required to keep going despite rejection or not feeling able to complete a musical. Working in the arts is certainly not an easy career option to go down if you are new to the business – which is a striking reminder that we should support new musical composers coming into the industry. It all feels slightly bleak – but it is also completely realistic – particularly given when Jon discovers how his musical went down with those in attendance at a workshop that he had been building up to.
My only slight issue with Tick, Tick…Boom is that in places it can feel a little bit clinical (in my opinion – I know I’m going to be outnumbered here) – particularly when it dealing to the AIDS epidemic which is constantly in the background to the story. I understand it is not the main focus of the story – but given that many of those surrounding Jon were going through it – it could have been given a bit more attention.
This being said, the way in which the musical numbers have been choreographed and filmed uplift this film – in particular ‘Sunday’ really makes the most of the ensemble and comes across as suitably theatrical, while ‘Come to Your Senses’ is another beautiful moment in the film. It never forgets its roots in theatre and that is what has made this film so popular with theatre fans across the world.
At the centre of the performances, Andrew Garfield as Jon gets the balance of obsessive and ambitious artist combined with an element of sensitive and lost just right – allowing the audience to like him despite his flaws. It is a charismatic performance that really captures the audience’s attention from start to finish. But he is surrounded by a lot of talent: Alexandra Shipp as Susan delivers a charming and compassionate performance as Jon’s girlfriend finding she is putting her life on hold for Jon and Robin de Jesús as Jon’s suppotive but increasingly exasperated friend Michael is emotionally engaging and a joy to watch – are just two examples of an excellently put together cast.
Overall, Tick, Tick…Boom is a sensitive and humane film with strong performances and will certainly be talked about for a long time to come.
By Emma Clarendon
Tick, Tick…Boom is available to watch on Netflix now.