Lin-Manuel Miranda and Andrew Garfield are a match made in Heaven.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directorial debut of the film version of the semi-autobiographical musical “Tick, Tick…Boom” explains that it’s based on a true story with parts made up by its main protagonist. He’s known as Jonathan Larson (1960-1996), and he was the genius behind the Broadway sensation “Rent.” Andrew Garfield gives one his best performances, at the level of Eduardo Saverin in “The Social Network,” as Jonathan, and he knows how to adapt to the real-life figure without being so commercial-minded. And I’m not the one asking if he’ll be in “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” I know he’s other things to. “Tick, Tick…Boom” is one of them, and it wisely finds its way on Netflix.
The time is 1990, two years before “Rent” hits the stage. Jonathan is more concerned about making it big on Broadway with his Sci-Fi project “Superbia” (8 years in the making) than he is about paying the rent. His dancer girlfriend Susan (Alexandra Shipp) has lost her passion for dancing and plans to become a teacher out of town and wants him to come with her, while his former roommate Michael (Robin de Jesus) gave up acting to get into advertising.
He then gets the position from a musical director at Playwrights Horizons (Jonathan Marc Sherman) to write a new song for his upcoming play. He’s so consumed by the Broadway world that during a Sunday Brunch at the Moondance Diner where he works as a waiter, he imagines his customers being Broadway legends from Bernadette Peters to Phillipa Soo to Chita Rivera, and even Miranda is the cook. That’s one of the best numbers in the film.
But he still has to deal with troubles of his own. Some of his friends are dying from AIDS, his girlfriend begins to lose faith in him, he can’t seem to write the new song, and above all, he’s turning 30 soon. Time is running out for him.
The supporting actors include Vanessa Hudgens and Joshua Henry as Jonathan’s fellow singers; Bradley Whitford as the lyricist Stephen Sondheim; Richard Kind as a composer; and Judith Light as Jonathan’s agent. But the ones who stand out are Shipp and de Jesus, who both portray characters trying to tell the hero to get focused on life. They’re both filled with real emotions and timing, and Garfield connects with them quite well.
Sometimes it can be cynical, but mostly “Tick, Tick…Boom” is filled with show-stopping tunes, fresh cameos, and amazing choreography. Miranda makes his movie directorial debut with a sense of spirit, and guides Garfield on levels I’ve never thought could be reachable. That’s how the actor ranks with his role in “The Social Network.” It’s easy to see him getting his music on the right note, and it’s hard to see him fall on hard times. Nobody said this was going to be easy.
This is a movie musical for everyone who loves Broadway, the people who create their shows, and the people who star in them. It’s all about broken or fulfilled dreams, the ups and downs of life, and how the film views Jonathan Larson. It’s passionate, sweet, and honest. Kudos to Garfield, Miranda, producers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, and screenplay writer Steven Levenson for taking the musical to film. I know this is going to be a hit on Netflix.
Now Playing in Select Theaters and Streaming on Netflix