Review: Lin Manuel Miranda and Andrew Garfield Strike Oscar Gold with “Tick…Tick…Boom,” Story of “Rent” Writer Jonathan Larson
Dealing with Netflix is no walk in the park, so I’m almost a little surprised that Lin Manuel Miranda’s “tick tick Boom” is opening tomorrow in some theaters, maybe the Paris in New York, who knows? Then next Friday it appears on the platform.
“tick tick Boom” is based on Jonathan Larson’s musical that he wrote before “Rent,” but altered to reflect the subsequent success of “Rent” and the tragic untimely death of Larson at age 35 the night before that landmark musical opened. Got that? And factor in that Miranda is the genius behind “Hamilton,” that he directed this adaptation but not the movie of his own musical, “In the Heights,” that bombed in June.
Anyway, at this late hour I can tell you that I loved this movie. It was a relief. I feel that Andrew Garfield, playing Larson, will be an Oscar nominee for Best Actor and could very well win. He has a Tony Award for a Broadway drama, the revival of “Angels in America.” Did we know he could sing? Or dance? We did not. If you go to a select theater tomorrow, Friday, you will see his talents on display. It’s a remarkable performance, and one I wish I’d known about a few weeks ago. But, hey.
Broadway fans, and there are plenty of them, will be head over heels in love with this movie. In one number, Miranda features some of the Great Light Way’s biggest stars, from Bernadette Peters and Brian Stokes Mitchell to Joel Grey, Bebe Neuwirth, and Chita Rivera. It’s a lot of fun, a real treat.
Beyond the Easter eggs, Miranda has made a compelling film of the story of Larson’s life, with a terrific supporting cast that includes Robin de Jesus, Alexandra Shipp, Vanessa Hudgens, Joshua Honey, a neat couple of moments with Judith Light, a cool exchange between Bradley Whitford as Stephen Sondheim and Richard Kind (as a fictitious composer), and so on.
Also kudos to production designer Alex DiGerlando, who rebuilt my beloved Moondance Diner from lower Sixth Avenue so well I wondered if it was still there and I’d just forgotten it. (It was replaced by an ugly modern building of no character or importance.)
But “tick tick BOOM” is really, in the end, all about Garfield, who’s so good and surprising and disarming that he gets mucho applause and appreciation. Larson is not someone anyone outside of the theater community ever knew, unfortunately, so it’s not like there’s a built in expectation. Garfield and Miranda built this character into a three dimensional person whom you will care about a lot. The work is equal to or better than almost anything we have this season. When audiences realize that this guy will never get to enjoy the fruits of his enormous labors, there will be a lot of Kleenexes being passed around.