‘tick, tick… BOOM!’, is adapted from the titular autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson. Andrew Garfield plays Jon as he navigates friendships, love, art, and his career at the tender age of 29. Directing the movie is none other than the legendary Lin-Manuel Miranda, in his feature directorial debut.
‘tick, tick… BOOM!’ has an immediate “this was a show” feel and often recalls ‘Rent’, which would go on to be Larson’s swansong and magnum opus of musical theatre. There’s some great singing from the get-go and one loves to see Vanessa Hudgens making a comeback (though it takes a surreally long time for Alexandra Shipp to get the spotlight – which you could lazily attribute to being the point). Really though, this is all about Garfield and Miranda.
‘The Social Network’ star and former Spider-Man, it has to be said, is extraordinary here – even if there’s no way he looks 29. He brings a fun-to-watch campness and cockiness to the role, at one point referring to himself as “the future of musical theatre.” Jon is a dreamer surrounded by artists, refusing to give up on himself, even as everyone around him chooses to compromise. He is disorganised and selfish, but Garfield imbues Jon with a vulnerability that’s hard not to feel for. Don’t be surprised when awards season comes round and this performance gets nominations, and a lot of them.
Now, onto Lin-Manuel Miranda. No one can deny his talent. From the stage to the screen, his movie contributions have so far included penning terrific movie soundtracks and he has delivered charming performances in such films as ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ and ‘In the Heights’ (which he also wrote before ‘Hamilton’). Now he’s been handed the camera and director’s chair and the final product is somewhat haphazard.
Clearly, Miranda saw the wider potential that film has when it comes to shot composition, editing and SFX over theatre, and thought ‘Yeah, I want all that in my movie.’ The result is some very cringeworthy, on-the-nose sequences and an editing style which is simply nuts. His over emphasis on style is distracting and hectic. The audience is alternately fuelled by adrenaline and exhausted as shot comes after shot, scenes race after one another, and even the music feels sped up.
There are some striking scenes surrounding numbers such as “Sunday” and “No More”, and its narrative following the impact of the HIV AIDS crisis on the arts community is very sad. But ‘tick, tick… BOOM!’ is so speedy and busy that it can be hard to hang onto any individual moment. In a way then, Garfield deserves further credit for grounding the feature, when Miranda’s filmmaking approach could cause the spinning wheel to fly off the handle.