Tick, Tick,.. Boom! (2021)

A hymn-like elegy of youth, impermanence, cruelty of fate, HIV, & the paradoxical catch-22 lives of artists, AG x LMM’s first directorial project is a powerful NYC-subfusc tribute to theatre kids & a musical legend of a generation through a plot-mechanism of time. 8/10.

Plot Synopsis: On the cusp of his 30th birthday, a promising young theater composer navigates love, friendship and the pressures of life as an artist in New York City.

*Possible Spoilers Ahead*

Official CLC Review

An Old [Genre] Taught New Tricks

Lin Manuel-Miranda Boasts A Legacy Of Reinvigorating With New Life A Genre W. Centuries Of Cinematic & Artistic Lore On Dying Breaths – Nearly-Killed By COVID-19

Photograph Courtesy Of: Netflix Originals

Lin-Manuel Miranda has reinvigorated an entire genre of filmmaking on the brink of catastrophic meltdown: a legacy few modern artists can claim to. Theatre – along with the print medium – was always dying; the technological revolution and rise of the streaming age only catalyzed the malignant tumor’s growth by giving consumers thousands of options at their fingertips to prevent the need to leaving their TV couch. Dash volatility and death into the mix with the staggeringly random-but-overdue emergence of a viral pandemic mandating quarantine in self-isolation, and we’re at the precipice of a complete generational paradigm-shift – an extinction-level event and natural selection pressure in-person mediums of entertainment will need to adapt/evolve to in order to live on. LMM [Lin-Manuel Miranda] recognized and diagnosed this far before the curve reached inoperable proportions – leading the charge of his beloved genre’s translation to a new frontier: moviemaking. The pros are everpresent and flaws ~nonexistent: being able to perfectly capture songs, performances, set-pieces, costumes, and every moving piece on the chess-board in a single take to remove human error & live jitter-bugs entirely from the surgeon’s table so he/she can deliver a Da Vincian work of art bigger in scale and possibilities than anything the cage-like boundaries of stage can produce. The entire genre of musicals – one of esteemed history and lore in cinema dating back since the early-1900’s Wizard Of Oz and Singin’ In The Rain that could’ve all been lost – owes LMM a lifetime of thank you’s for keeping it alive as a patient enough to weather the storm, managing to confiscate eyes that would’ve been elsewhere on the next major MCU-type blockbuster CBM to musicals with his two masterpieces in 2021 alone: In The Heights and Tick, Tick,.. Boom!

A Creative Mind For A Generation

The Tony/Pulitzer-Winning Larson Gets A Remarkable Biopic Rock-Monologue Told Through The Paradoxical Catch-22 Lives Of Artists: Expected To Produce Masterworks By A System Working Against Them

Photograph Courtesy Of: Netflix Originals

A hymn-like elegy of youth, impermanence, cruelty-of-fate, HIV, and the paradoxical catch-22 lives of artists, LMM’s first directorial project is a breathtaking NYC-subfusc tribute-biopic to the musical legend who woke up a generation – soaringly-powerful in its melodies as its Garfield-led performances/characterization unraveled through a plot-mechanization of time. Foremost, Tick, Tick,.. Boom! is a panegyric to artists and dreamers – one expressed through a contrastively-juxtaposed lamentation in the subfusc concrete jungle of NYC. The film paints the purgatoric daily existence of the 95%+ who never get that big-break ascension to the red-carpeted heavens from waiting tables. Even creators as genius as Jonathan Larson – the visionary Tony/Pulitzer-winning composer and playwright behind works of multiculturalism, addiction, and homophobia crescendoing in the 12-year Broadway residency of Rent – are forced into bad apartments with cockroaches, snowy laundry-hikes, power-outages, and illegal heating systems while being forced into menial jobs wasting their creative energy/time just to pay the bills. Even if they are the one-in-a-million who make it out, love/passion then become a business that can ruin the experience for them and siphon creative energy, drive, & achievement. The world expects these oeuvres and symphonic masterstrokes of artists, but looks down on those choosing to pursue them instead of getting a ‘real job’ while negating these effects for the ones they demand of who made it – failing to give them a sustainable model/ecosystem by which they can provide for themselves enough freedom, comfort, and resources to produce. It even chases talented ones out of the field to soulless corporatism like Michael or beats the desire from their souls through competition and rejection like Susan. The darkness of this semi-autobiographical rock-monologue’s screenplay is unraveled through a plot-mechanism and overarching leitmotif of time.

The Impermanence Of Life & Youth

A Strikingly-Powerful Memorandum Of The Mortality Of Mankind; Larson & Co. Battle Against Time As Much As The Competition With Lives & Careers Cut Tragically Short

Photograph Courtesy Of: Netflix Originals

The characters of the narrative are in a constant battle with time: a demigod of nature & physucs that reigns supreme on mortal lives. Larson’s ever-approaching recital of omnipotence on the horizon and lingering quarter-life crisis drive his pervasive anxiety across the film – a brilliant, extremely-relatable, & scarcely-analyzed theme of generational importance. Parental generations of the past were more established at younger ages than Gen. Z & Millennials – ascribed with a dogged work-and-family duality perspective wherein nothing else mattered. How many of them, though, would say they’re truly happy with their lives? How many are wracked with regret or would – if given a time machine – go back and change major decisions on their personal & professional trajectories? These older demographics [ones who’ve shaped the ethos of modern society by their age in the power position after the generation before them died off] have created this mirage we’re all supposed to have completely figured out the mystery of life by our 20’s and early 30’s. It’s a destructive, manipulative, pressurized, counterproductive ticking time-bomb: exactly the one the film metaphorically references by its onomatopoeic title, and one that unnecessarily lays the foundations for suicide, fiscal irresponsibility, career/personal dissatisfaction, & more. This pervasive evil becomes tragedy when it leads to a wasted life or talent the world becomes deprived of, and T.T.B. reminds us – strikingly – that tomorrow is never guaranteed. Any one of us could die suddenly tomorrow by the cruelty of fate: a car-accident, slip-and-head-crack, or precipitous aortic anerysm like Larson physically died from the real-world at the tender age of 35.. on the night before his life’s work finally got its big stage light debut in Rent’s premiere. If you died tomorrow, would you have wished you spent more time at the office, or chasing your dream – even if it meant sacrifices and humbler living? Ask someone on their deathbed, and we guarantee the answer will be unanimously the latter.

The Music

The Signature Of Any LMM Film Or Project, The Songs Burst With Soul, Personality, & Pure Creativity Being Able To Mix Diverse Genres & Create Magic From Everyday Life

Photograph Courtesy Of: Netflix Originals

The film wakes up its audience to live and celebrate in the moment – fulfilling our passions instead of wasting our gifts in 9-5 ignominy like its other characters [and even Larson almost does on the spirit-breaking/crushing revelation 8+ years of his life and his entire 20’s were wasted on writing a Superbia that didn’t give him the big break he thought he was promised, but we’re reminded is never guaranteed and is only saved by the legendary Stephen Sondheim recognizing his talents to exposition the critical theme of how important it is for artists to support each other]. This is echoed in an even darker way by the arc of Larson’s best friend, Michael – whom has been diagnosed with HIV and been given maybe a year to live. Our preconceptions about him selling out thus take on a new light in how maybe he just doesn’t want to waste his time left in the ruthless barbarian competition of being an actor in NYC and would rather prefer to enjoy some of the luxuries of life before his tragically ends – again, at a young age of lost time the film thunderously reminds us to never bank on. Susan’s job-offer comes at the worst possible time as well: breaking up her years-long relationship with Larson by forcisure to make a decision to move out to the suburbs to get away from the hustle-and-bustle an engaged artist can’t leave for fear of isolationism. The hypercompetitiveness & rejection of artists’ lives is a theme brought into play here, in conjunction with a furthering of the cruelty-of-fate thread by her getting badly-injured while dancing such that she can’t get back to her former positions, talent, and contracts. Fate seems to love beating up on artists. The stories of this incredible character-syndicate [amongst the best in modern musicals alongside In The Heights] are brought to life by magnificent songs, performance, and direction.

The Performances

A Cast Of Hollywood A-Listers & Broadway Stars Return To Roots; A Beautiful Panegyric To Theatre Kids Led By A Career-Great Performance Of Whimsicality & Eccentricity By Andrew Garfield As The Young Old-Soul

Photograph Courtesy Of: Netflix Originals

LMM is a directorial force behind the camera whose talents feel far beyond what a debut has any right to ever be – not only proficiently unraveling a narrative of elegance, but doing so with [characteristically] amazing musical numbers.The songs of Tick, Tick,.. Boom! burst with life, joie-de-vivre, and crescendoing power enough to give you goosebumps multiple times. Lin Manuel-Miranda has thunderously proven a godlike ability to make captivating songs out of the most simplistic and mundane daily tasks; he’s even able to make a bop out of serving omelettes and swimming in a lap-pool. The man – for damn sure – knows his music, and one can sense how much he loves the artform by how he seamlessly blends and evokes a wide spectrum of [oftentimes antithetical] genres from soft piano-ballads to R&B to folk to 90’s boom-bap hip-hop to orchestral to acapella for a complete encyclopedia of music. This purity and love-letter to musicianship is especially apparent in that jaw-dropping Sunday Diner scene: one of the greatest musical numbers in the history of the genre. The scene extrapolates a single-person piano ballad to a full-orchestral masterwork of dreams exploiting the wonders of LMM’s full-rolodex: a veritable assembling of the Musical Justice-League/Avengers, from Renée Goldsbury to Phillipa Soo to Bernadette Peters to Beth Malone to Joel Grey to Joanna P. Adler. This pedigree of broadway showmanship and vocal chops is unbelievable to have under one film’s roof, and bleeds into the main cast of movie-stars coming back to roots. Andrew Garfield positively owns this movie – bringing that refreshing Soho grounded street underdog energy, purity, idiosyncrasy, off-kilter ineffible-presence, and babyface charm that, amalgamated, made him the Greatest Spider-Man Of All-Time to one of musicals’ biggest figures of importance: Jonathan Larson. A theatre kid himself growing up with a surprising background on stage himself we had to look up by how rarely-if-ever it’s referenced post-blockbusters, this performance and character was personal to AG and you can certainly tell.

The NYC Cliché

A Vexingly-Overused Background Employed To Death Over Movies, TV, & Esp: Musicals – Including LMM Already In 2021 Alone In The Far Superior In The Heights By Culture Lens

Photograph Courtesy Of: Netflix Originals

Garfield captures the frantic eccentricity of the young old-soul – while infusing a morality, gregariousness, and whimsicality that plays as the ultimate celebration of the theater kid society has long maligned and made fun of. Oh, and – unbeknownst to us and of delightful surprise – his vocal-chops are god-tier; we never knew he possessed this kind of talent it’s a damn shame was hidden from the world for this long. The other performances are just as sensational, and praisably-diverse as well. Alexandra Shipp’s delicacy and grace as the big-to-small town hopeless-romantic Susan, Robin De Jesús’ emotionally-supercharged performance as the empirically-dichotomized gay man Michael in the eye of a hurricane time of the ’90’s [one of LGBTQ+’s finest on-screen representatives of the year and most important films], Vanessa Anne Hudgens’ vocal crux of the ensemble Karessa (proving without-a-doubt she still has the range and proficiency to be as much a singer as a mega-actress beyond the Disney Channel High School Musical days], Judith Ellen Light’s talky, shady Bronx-accented talent-agent Rosa, Richard Kind’s hilarious flip-flopping journalist Walter Bloom, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Phillipa Soon, etc. Flaws in TTB largely center on the increasingly-clichéd background of NYC and cinematography; LMM has already used this exact thesis of NYC love-letter this year alone in In The Heights – far better suited by the fact the city also metaphorizes the cultural melting pot of America: perfect to tell the immigrants’ story. We get it’s about painstaking accuracy – the crew even going so far as to recreate the exact order of books on Larson’s bookshelves and film in his exact apartment – but the drab, lifeless, concrete-laden landscape [not helped by its dark, muted visual filter & plebeian cinematography that siphons the energy and vibrance its songs supply] is beginning to grow heavily-tiresome.

The Cinematography & Direction

Drab, Plebeian, Dark-Filtered, Run-Of-Mill Cinematography Siphoning Life & Energy In Canvas, Saved By The Performances, Music, Direction, Themes: Great Tribute To Legend

Photograph Courtesy Of: Netflix Originals

Beyond that, a few of the character-interactions could’ve been fleshed out a bit more too. Again, we get that at 1h56m, Tick, Tick,.. Boom! is long, but it somehow manages to also leave its backstory a bit light on the characters dotting the periphery of the major events like Michael and Susan – some like Rosa, Karessa, and Rodger also not even getting *any* explanation of who they are whatsoever in a film that could’ve taken 5-10 minutes more to elucidate them all like ITH did with simple character-introductions [one of the many reasons it’s the superior film]. Nevertheless, Tick, Tick,.. Boom! is a remarkable cinematic debut behind the clacker by a patriarch of the musical every bit as groundbreaking and revolutionizing as Larson: Lin-Manuel Miranda. Full-circle, LMM credits Larson’s Rent as the musical that first evoked his love/passion for theatre back when he got taken to a show on his 17th birthday – and how fitting is it for such a return to roots to be found at such a critical time for both the genre and world of movies. The one-two punch of TTB and In The Heights [as well as, somewhat, Annette – even though its minor key, lava-drowned, overly-edgy musical numbers pale in comparison to both LMM’s] might just save the musical from extinction, and we couldn’t be happier. A hymn-like elegy of youth, impermanence, cruelty-of-fate, HIV, and the paradoxical catch-22 lives of artists, LMM’s first directorial project is a breathtaking NYC-subfusc tribute-biopic to the musical legend who woke up a generation – soaringly-powerful in its melodies as its Garfield-led performances/characterization unraveled through a plot-mechanization of time.

Official CLC Score: 8/10