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Rated 3.26 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Autobiographical Art
by Betty Jo Tucker

All art is autobiographical according to Frederico Fellini, the famous Italian film director and screenwriter of acclaimed films like La Strada and La Dolce Vita. After watching tick, tick…BOOM! I believe it stands as an excellent example of Fellini’s explanation. Based on the late Jonathan Larson’s autographical musical about a struggling theater composer in New York City, this unusual offering combines drama and music to tell an emotional story involving love, friendship, and an artist’s pressure to create. 

Directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton/In the Heights) and adapted for the screen by Steve Levenson (Dear Evan Hanson), the movie stars Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge) as Jonathan Larson and “Jon” in the stage play presentation. Jonathan, a musical theatre nerd if there ever was one, is deeply concerned over his upcoming 30th birthday and worries that he hasn’t written or produced a Broadway hit show yet.          

Say “tick, tick…BOOM!” and you might guess

why our hero feels in distress.

He’s got a musical to write

and works on it both day and night.

 

His girlfriend fears they’ve grown apart.

If so, it means a broken heart.

His best friend wants to help him too.

But nothing works. What can he do?    

 

  Theatre folks will love this one.

Lots of singing before it’s done.

Yet it’s not “Rent” the film or play.

But Andrew Garfield saves the day.

At first I thought Garfield was miscast, but he won me over with his persistent and realistic portrayal of a man consumed with his art. Sometimes it’s not a pretty sight, but a true one. However, I would love to have seen Lin-Manual Miranda in this role. (Yes, he does list it on his acting vita!)      

Other standouts in the cast include Alexandra Shipp (Love, Simon) as Jonathan’s dancer girlfriend, Robin de Jesus ( The Boys in the Band ) as his practical best friend, and Bradley Whitford (How It Ends) as the great musical theatre legend Stephen Sondheim, who encourages Jonathan to continue writing. I also enjoyed watching Vanessa Hudgens (On Frozen Ground) in lovely moments that show her character helping Jonathan with his first showcase presentation.

Please watch for Broadway stars like Bebe Neuworth (Chicago on Broadway), Chita Rivera (West Side Story), Joel Grey (Cabaret), and many others. This dramatic musical pays tribute not only to Jonathan Larson but also to Broadway. And it comes at a time when Broadway has opened up after the long theatre closures because of the Covid pandemic, which makes it quite timely.    

tick, tick…BOOM! left me feeling sad that Jonathan, who later became famous for his award-winning musical Rent, died the day before it premiered on Broadway.

There is no future. There is no past. I live each moment as my last. --- Jonathan Larson

(Released by Netflix and rated “PG-13” by MPAA.)


                                                                                                                                                                               
 
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