“Tick, Tick . . . Boom!,” Reviewed: The Hole at the Center of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Movie-Musical Adaptation


The late Jonathan Larson was more than a great lyricist and composer; he was also a force of nature in musical performance. In Lin-Manuel Miranda’s film of Larson’s quasi-autobiographical solo show “Tick, Tick . . . Boom!,” Andrew Garfield plays the singer-songwriter; he gamely sings and energetically gambols and uninhibitedly emotes and, in general, holds the screen with fervent charm, as movie stars do. But, unfortunately, Garfield isn’t a musical force of nature or anything close. His mere sufficiency in that department is the wavering note to which the entire movie is tuned and which, for all its many virtues, makes the film slip away from its emotional center.

Working with a script by Steven Levenson, Miranda endows the movie with a casually elaborate structure. The anchor of the action is the show itself, which Jonathan (the character played by Garfield, as distinguished from the real-life Larson) is performing, onstage, at the piano, in front of an audience—but not solo. He’s accompanied by two singers (Vanessa Hudgens and Joshua Henry) and a band. The first-person story that Jonathan tells in his narration and his songs is the springboard for the drama, which is shown in an endearingly complex interweave of flashbacks and fantasies. That story is set in early 1990, when Jonathan is about to turn thirty, with little to show for his many years of musical exertions. He’s working as a waiter at the photogenic Moondance Diner and living in a dilapidated high-floor walkup somewhere on the rumpled edges of SoHo. He’s nearly broke, living from paycheck to paycheck, and pinning all his hopes on a workshop performance of the science-fiction musical that he has spent eight years writing. The very premise of the solo show, and of the story that Jonathan tells in it, is the pressure of time—the sense that, upon hitting thirty, his youth and his promise will be gone and he’ll be left with himself as a pathetic and over-the-hill failure, not a rising composer but a desperate crank on the way down to oblivion—with neither the artistic glory that he single-mindedly pursued nor the conventional success that he cavalierly spurned in pursuing it.

Sourse: newyorker.com

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