Tuesday, November 30, 2021

tick, tick... BOOM!

Adapted from Jonathan Larson's stage musical, the semi-autobiographical work takes us inside the struggles of aspiring musical theater playwright and composer attempting to complete an 8 year project of a dystopian futuristic musical called Superbia before his thirtieth birthday. Pressured by needing to compose a crucial song to complete the musical as the workshop for its one and only performance begins, his girlfriend (Alexandra Shipp) needing an answer to a crucial relationship question, another of his friends hospitalized after becoming HIV Positive, and the daily struggles of working at the Moondance Diner and finding ways to pay his bills, a constant ticking reminds Jon that he's running out of time.

The film jumps between the performance of tick, tick... BOOM! on a stage, narrated by a self-deprecating Jon (Andrew Garfield) and providing context to the story, while flashing back to sequences of his life in further detail. The movie doesn't so much break the fourth wall as ignore it completely while the audience is swallowed into his story and willingly taken along for the ride.

Garfield carries much of the film on his shoulders, but there are some stand-out supporting performances from Alexandra Shipp as his girlfriend Susan, Robin de Jesus as Jon's longtime best-friend who has found a way to monetize his creative side making Jon questions his own choices, and Vanessa Hudgens as one of the actresses in Jon's workshop who gets the movie's best musical number in the song that Jon searches to find throughout the entire film. In smaller roles we also get Judith Light as Jon's mostly absent agent and Bradley Whitford playing Stephen Sondheim.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the movie is the ability to see Larson's progression as a composer and playwright leading up to his masterpiece, which he died too early to see succeed. We are given readings and music from Susperia along with songs written for this play and from those we can see the progression of his work which would lead him to RENT. While tick, tick... BOOM! isn't RENT, it's certainly an entertaining peek into the creative process of a young artist who left this world far too soon.

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