Jonathan Larson, writer of Broadway smash hit Rent, died tragically young at the age of 35, a posthumous Pulitzer Prize awarded to him for his edgy rock musical and tackling issues like homophobia, addiction and multiculturalism. Before Rent, he wrote another musical: Tick, Tick… Boom!, new to Netflix, which is essentially about an artist struggling to find his creative voice, afraid of becoming a failure as he heads towards his 30th birthday. A semi-autobiographical musical is here given cinematic flair by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, with solid if often self-indulgent results.
Andrew Garfield stars as Larson, a broke artist struggling to make ends meet but unwilling to give up on his dreams of musical success. A workshop of his musical Superbia is on the cards, but will anyone show up to watch it? How, for that matter, can he finance it… and there’s a missing crucial second act song.
Tick, Tick… Boom! is staged as a performance before zipping in and out of reality and theatricality staged with a great deal of flair by Miranda: a diner-set number will cause conniptions for Broadway fans, with a cavalcade of superstar cameos belting out the high notes. The main story, however, feels thin and well-worn: a struggling artist puts work before love, in this case, Alexandra Shipp’s Susan. Set in 1990, it also deals with the AIDS epidemic as friends succumb to the disease.
Garfield learned to sing for the part and throws himself at everything with gusto, but despite the tears and triumphs, Tick, Tick… Boom! doesn’t quite have the emotional resonance it should, feeling overwrought at times. Still, fans of Larson and his work will love it, and his was a voice that would have created much more. In the week where we lost musical genius Stephen Sondheim – played here by an encouraging Bradley Whitford – who had a role in helping Larson to glory, there is much to enjoy about this opus, and it is a reminder of the power of art.
Dir: Lin-Manuel Miranda (12A, 115 mins)
Out now via Netflix
words KEIRON SELF
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