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IANS Review: 'Tick, Tick...Boom': An inspirational film that touches your heart (IANS Rating: ****)

 
By Troy Ribeiro
Series: 'Tick, Tick...Boom' (Streaming on Netflix)



Duration: 115 minutes

Director: Lin-Manuel Miranda

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesus, Joshua Henry, Mj Rodriguez, Bradley Whitford, Tariq Trotter, Judith Light and Vanessa Hudgens

IANS Rating: ****

This autobiographical musical directed by debutant Lin-Manuel Miranda is the story of the young theatre composer Jonathan Larson, who worked as a waiter in a restaurant in New York before getting his big break as creator of the musical 'Rent' that played for 12 years on Broadway.

You don't need to know who Jonathan Larson is to see 'Tick, Tick...Boom'. His story resonates strongly with each one of us, especially with writers, performers and creative people who can identify with how he articulated the struggle to be recognised.

The film, set in 1990, begins with Jon (Andrew Garfield) on stage introducing himself, "Hi, I'm Jon – a musical theatre writer, one of the last ones of my species."

He then takes us on his life's journey, fretting about not finding success before the age of 30. We see Larson in his daily life, which is devoted to finishing 'Superbia', a dystopian musical he has been working on for eight years.

Since both his benefactor and the musical genius Stephen Sondheim (Bradley Whitford) insisted that the show needed a song in the second act, Jon tells us how he struggled to cope with the pressure from all fronts, especially from his girlfriend Susan and his best friend Michael, before a hyped-up workshop, where he presents his work 'Superbia'.

Despite getting appreciated, when his legendary yet useless agent Rosa Stevens (Judith Light) advises him to keep on writing and to try writing about what he knows best, you realise he is a heartbroken man.

But then, fate has other plans for him. With his novel kind of musical, one characterised by a contemporary sound, characters, and recognisable struggles, and an uncommonly diverse cast, how Jon, with his single-minded focus and prodding from the genius Sondheim, held on to his beliefs, despite being at the crossroads of his life, forms the crux of the story.

Ironically Larson died of an aortic aneurysm the day before the musical premiered on Broadway.

Miranda's script is intense yet breezy. The screenplay seamlessly meshes Jon's songs, which feel personal yet entertaining. He brings everything in close for an almost stifling aesthetic that sometimes cuts back and forth from stage retelling to filmed re-enactment at befuddling speed.

This can be visually challenging yet also aurally expressive when voices from both suddenly merge into a duet of sorts. The musical numbers distill the tempest of emotions, while the drama mines deeper into the soul.

You can hear it, see it, and feel it in succession all at once. And it moves at a rapid pace.

Andrew Garfield as Jon gives his all to the role with his fizzy energy and exceptional emotions. He is funny and charismatic, and his spirit is palpable. He is aptly supported by Alexandra Shipp as his girlfriend Susan and Robin de Jesus as his friend Michael, who is literally his confidant and critic.

Overall, the film with moderate production values is a moving tribute to the genius.

--IANS
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