I'm old and I've watched a lot of old movies. A little over a year ago when I read that a film version of tick, tick...BOOM! was in the works, I mistakenly thought it would be a remake of a 1970 movie that starred Jim Brown, George Kennedy and Fredric March. But that racial drama was called TICK, TICK, TICK.
tick, tick...BOOM! is something else. Something wonderful.
The extremely talented Lin-Manuel Miranda makes his directorial debut with tick, tick...BOOM! and I pray he directs more movies. He directed this true musical story with a Bob Fosse-like energy and wit. To his credit, he's not copying Fosse like Rob Marshall did with the film version of CHICAGO. He's got those qualities we saw in Fosse films such as ALL THAT JAZZ and LENNY displayed via his own fresh, individual style.
New York city diner waiter-turned-Broadway great Jonathan Larson gave us the long-running Broadway musical, RENT. He was turning 30 and freaking out that, despite all his hard work, he'd not done anything noticeable and substantial in the theater world. tick, tick...BOOM! is the title of one of the shows he wrote before RENT. He's proud of but not haughty about his talent. At a party, he says to a jock fellow guest, "I'm the future of musical theater, Scott."
At a period of confusion and despair, he's been slapped down with rejections, he gets a message of encouragement from Broadway legend, Stephen Sondheim. The Sondheim sections of the film are like a sweet, unplanned memorial to him.
Stephen Sondheim passed away last week at age 91. Over the weekend, I was touched by the number of non-famous people who'd received letters of encouragement from Sondheim. Those folks took photos of their letters and posted them on Twitter. To see Sondheim's generosity made me love him even more.
We see the trials and tribulations of Jonathan Larson as he struggles to make art and be more than just a diner waiter. We see his relationship with his girlfriend, his tender friendship with his gay Latino roommate, his previews of music he's written, the horror he feels when faced with the reality that he's losing friends to the AIDS crisis.
This musical bio is rich with passion and heart. And humor. The fantasy number in the Moondance Diner, inspired by a Sondheim number from SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, is a classic. Andrew Garfield wins your heart with his performance. You feel his heartbreak, his disappointments, his joys and his New York spirit. In one tiff with his girlfriend, he blurts out "Everyone's unhappy in New York! That's what New York is." I laughed and I totally understood. I lived there for 25 years. I even ate at the Moondance Diner.
The engaging, touching performance from Andrew Garfield should bring him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. It's that good. And I'd give Lin-Manuel Miranda's film an Oscar nomination for Best Picture with him getting a nod for Best Director. Here's a trailer.
Bradley Whitford is totally cool as Stephen Sondheim. Theater fans will dig seeing cameo appearances of several Broadway stars -- Bernadette Peters, Joel Grey, Bebe Neuwirth, Andre De Shields, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Chita Rivera.
Andrew Garfield has one Oscar nomination to his credit. He received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for playing a real-life World War 2 hero in Mel Gibson's battlefield biopic, HACKSAW RIDGE (2016). Earlier this year, we saw Garfield hit a homerun as disgraced and imprisoned TV evangelist Jim Bakker in THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE. I reviewed that in my previous blog post.
Again, Garfield plays a real-life character. Oscar loves biopics. Think of all the actors who have won Oscars for playing real life figures. From Spencer Tracy in BOYS TOWN and Luise Rainer in THE GREAT ZIEGELD in the 1930s to Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich, Forrest Whitaker as Idi Amin, Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles, Sean Penn as Harvey Milk, Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn, Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln, Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill and Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland. To name a few.
Oscar loves biopics. Let's see if he loves the loveable tick, tick...BOOM! It's available on Netflix.