Concessions Confession: After finishing Tick, Tick… Boom, my reaction was somewhat mixed. After letting it ruminate for a bit, I can confirm that I find this to be a mixed bag indeed.

Logline: Aspiring playwright Jonathan Larson attempts to make his first big production in Sci-Fi rock musical Superbia. While Larson tackles a stiff deadline of composing his final song, he is more incumbered by the looming deadline of his 30th birthday.

In the year of musical adaptations: In the Heights, Dear Evan Hansen, and West Side Story; I have confidence in declaring this the winner. Tick, Tick….Boom is incredibly fun. Andrew Garfield transforms into the eccentric Jonathan Larson as he parades around trying to come to terms with his stress and turmoil. The music lends itself to an upbeat and jumpy rhythms that makes it easy to get you toes tapping. It helps that not only can Andrew Garfield carry a tune, but he is accompanied by Leslie Odom Jr, and Vanessa Hudgens who both lend their talented voice to most of the songs.

It’s an undoubtable fun affair, and Lin-Manuel Miranda gives a decent enough directorial debut. It’s interesting how most of the blame for the visual Miranda is assumed to have while also not getting any credit for pretty solid performances throughout his cast. I do think the composition is mostly standard and some of the editing is a little wonky at times but overall, it’s perfectly fine. I do think it’s an odd blend of stage elements and adapting it to film. They definitely take advantage of blocking in limitless space but often try to get these artificial backdrops and harsh spotlights that… it almost does bring into question whether it is a mistake rather than a conscious choice.

Larson’s inner conflict is one that did resonant with me, but in a way that isn’t exactly evergreen. I’m in a state of being terrified of being thirty and can kind of relate to that seeming like the end of the world. I don’t think everyone is going to have that same experience, say someone who is like 52. It taps into that tortured artist, or just someone who is the victim of self-doubt and the creative process. Larson is an easily sympathetic character in his trials and tribulations. The film is marvelous and rich on the broad conceptual level, that were I find this film thriving.

However, Larson isn’t always the most sympathetic character and here lies maybe the issues I have with the film. I’m not too familiar with Rent’s long battle with controversy but whether it is accusations of plagiarism, or critics challenging the play’s shallow depiction of issues and using it as more of a backdrop than an exploration. While I can’t comment on this in application of Rent, it is kind of interesting that Tick Tick…Boom certainly comes across as having that problem.

This play could easily be seen as a vanity project as is any project where you make yourself the subject. However, Larson comes across as self-absorbed and egotistical person who while truly caring for the people in his life…..just conveniently also uses them when his work needs some dramatic punch to it. It is interesting how Susan and Michael are barely even really given focused until their personal life or sorrow is exploitable to juice up the plot. Tick, Tick….Boom is truly the story of aids happening in the background. Referenced in such a shallow way, this adaptation doesn’t really add anything that doesn’t make it feel like 30-year-old commentary.

The thing to maybe criticism Miranda on his just how straight of an adaptation it is. I feel that very little effort is put into either fulfilling the 90s period piece as everything feels very contemporary times outside of very in your face relics of the past. In adapting it so straight, I fear that Larson lacks any real self-introspection or Miranda any real criticism towards his hero.

Larson could easily work as a tragic hero, who puts all his eggs into one basket but suffers in his relationships, and connections with people and the world only to complete his quest for grandeur. While the film is acknowledging this, it also can’t help but romanticize his heroics for indulging in the hardships of being a creative genius. He’s essentially an Amadeus without a Salieri, a fallen hero with glossed over flaws. Comes across similar to Bo Burnham persona, but without that self-awareness that we can relate to Zach Stone or Turning 30 because there’s always a glimpse of introspection and understanding his platform.

In the end, Tick, Tick….Boom is kind of shallow with simple messages of “go with what you know”, “Aids is bad”, and “hard work is hard”. There always feel like there should be more to it. The music and the scenes themselves create a tremendous weight and build up to them. The film knows how to present the ideas just the ideas aren’t that strong and any layer that could possibly deepen the themes or messages it ultimately shies away from.

It’s musical theatre kid paradise, and overall it’s not a bad film. I recommend you go watch it but I’m not in the crowd that cried or found this amazing beyond belief. It will be in the Oscar hunt, it deserves some recognition all around but, I don’t think it’s anything too special or particularly noteworthy.

But what did you think of Tick, Tick….Boom. Let me know in the comments, and as always I will see you at the movies!

3 thoughts on “Tick, Tick….Boom! Bursting With Energy, Waiting for the Impact

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