[Screen It]


(2021) (Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp) (PG-13)

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Musical: A playwright tries to balance his various relationships with his need to write one last song for the upcoming workshop of his long-gestating, sci-fi musical.

Jon Larson (ANDREW GARFIELD) is a nearly 30-year-old playwright who's trying to put the finishing touches on his long-gestating, sci-fi musical, "Superbia." He lives in Soho with his long-time friend, Michael (ROBIN DE JESUS), who's now moving out, and is in a relationship with dancer Susan (ALEXANDRA SHIPP). But he's now under a tight deadline to write one last big song for his offering, what with Ira Weitzman (JONATHAN MARC SHERMAN) putting on a workshop of the musical with Karessa (VANESSA HUDGENS) and Roger (JOSHUA HENRY) singing the leads.

But it's uncertain if Jon's agent, Rosa Stevens (JUDITH LIGHT), has sent out any invites for the workshop and thus Jon starts calling up anyone and everyone, including legendary theater figure Stephen Sondheim (BRADLEY WHITFORD). But with the clock ticking down, the pressures Jon is facing start affecting his relationship with both Susan and Michael.

OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10

While some people might -- for whatever twisted reason -- thrive on or enjoy working under tight deadlines, most do not. That's especially true when it involves something creative as the muses don't appreciate the pressure and usually refuse to participate when push comes to shove.

And the closer whatever the deadline might be, the greater the creative block becomes until something eventually goes boom in response to the ticking delivery time bomb. That's the underlying plot thrust of the appropriately titled "Tick, Tick...Boom!" based on the stage musical of the same name.

Written by Jonathan Larson and performed for the first time in the early 1990s and then retooled as a musical a decade later, the work was about the playwright's efforts to get his dystopian rock musical "Superbia" finished, including the last-minute rush of an overall eight-year process. While that ultimately didn't fly, his subsequent effort (TTB) did, followed by the huge success of his next offering, "Rent."

Alas, Larson didn't live long enough to see that one hit the stage or receive its many accolades as he died from an aortic dissection three months before its debut. And thus, this film -- that marks the feature-length directorial debut of none other than Lin-Manuel Miranda -- is a loving tribute to the man and his work that changed the face and tone of Broadway theater. And it's pretty terrific all around.

Steven Levenson's screenplay has the story jumping around through time ranging from a stage version of "TTB" and then flashbacks to what inspired it and later influenced the stylings of "Rent."

Andrew Garfield -- who I believe is appearing in a musical for the first time -- is fabulous in the lead role, taking the usual suffering artist character type to new heights in an engaging and empathetic performance. Funny, witty, creative, and likable, he plays Jon, the cash-strapped waiter who's been toiling away on his "1984" inspired musical (talk about a hard sell) and now is finally getting a workshop read and sing-thru arranged by Ira Weitzman (Jonathan Marc Sherman).

But he needs one more song and it's bedeviling him to no end, especially with the clock ticking toward that very big date. All of which means he's put his various relationships on the back burner where they're starting to cool off.

That includes with his dancer girlfriend, Susan (Alexandra Shipp), who wonders if she should take a job far away from the city, as well as his longtime best friend, Michael (Robin de Jesús), who wants Jon to write advertising jingles to support himself financially just in case this musical thing doesn't work out. That's the nearly 30-year-old Jon's underlying concern, what with already seeing himself as an age-related failure compared to Stephen Sondheim (Bradley Whitford) who had "West Side Story" up and running in his mid-twenties.

And thus, as the deadline quickly approaches, Jon begins to crack under the pressure while also dealing with some unpleasant surprises, including one related to AIDS that would later fuel a great deal of "Rent."

Knowing a thing or two about being a struggling creative type trying to make it on Broadway, Miranda is the perfect person to sit in the director's chair. His style is fluid and uber-creative, thus making the film as much of a visual treat as it is to the ears, what with some solid to great musical numbers.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed this offering. So, whatever you do, don't wait until the last minute and put aside any other deadlines so that you can see it in all its glory. Yes, it's that good, and thus "Tick, Tick...Boom!" rates as a 7.5 out of 10.

Reviewed November 15, 2021 / Posted November 19, 2021

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