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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

'tick, tick...BOOM!' Review: Andrew Garfield Composes In Lin-Manuel Miranda's Musical Adaptation

Andrew Garfield with his hands raised in a diner

Time to set aside your clocks, metronomes and explosives because we do have a movie to keep the tempo in check before blowing off walls during a song. Musical powerhouse Lin-Manuel Miranda's first feature film as a director is an adaptation of Jonathan Larson's (also credited for the score here as well as the songs) autobiographical musical tick, tick...BOOM!, written for the screen by Steven Levenson.

Our main character is Jon (portrayed by Andrew Garfield) who's a hustling theatre composer and playwright trying to get his dystopian musical called 'Superbia' made. Jon is about to turn 30 and he feels like his time is running out in many ways; he has trouble paying the bills, his girlfriend Susan (Alexandra Shipp) gets a job offer away from New York City, few friends have passed away recently, a career opportunity comes Jon's way through his more successful friend Michael (Robin de Jesús) and he has a crucial song missing from the musical with only days to come up with it.

Even coming to the film cold as in not having seen any of Larson's work, heard any of the songs or even knowing what it's about in terms of his life story, it was easy to get swept up in this fast-paced, little bit anxious storytelling. Miranda clearly found the right pitch while working with editors Myron Kerstein and Andrew Weisblum because there's an intoxicating flow while dealing with what seems like a ton of coverage, notably during the songs which is the biggest part because it understands its function as a musical but also as a character piece. Because characters aren't just bursting out every two minutes, ''Boom'' works in film form since there is enough time to just be with them. It very much feels like you get to know all the main characters (Michael and Susan mainly) like you do with Jon and you get a sense that their lives are happening even when the focus is on Jon.

Cherries on top are that the performances are also outstanding; Garfield is in full control of his hands and feet when the character is eager to make things or even his speaking voice which is much more expressive than before, perhaps due to vocal training required for the music. De Jesús goes head-to-head with Garfield in every way possible and that makes you feel like these two guys aren't afraid of getting close and giving space to each other, while Shipp brings the much needed realness to otherwise eccentric scenes.

Obviously there is one thing that shreds through all of these aforementioned aspects (editing, character depth, performances, tone and atmosphere) which are the songs. They are fun but heavy on lyrics so you're constantly learning, and there's a good variety of production tricks and voice types - even Garfield isn't overly tuned which helps you relate to his flawed character. Everything about the movie just works in harmony, which is the essence of a musical film with a root note that is made out of drama and creativity.

Smileys: Andrew Garfield, Robin de Jesús, editing, soundtrack, Alexandra Shipp

Frowneys: Nothing too disappointing

I don't think that diner follows safety regulations based on how the walls are built.


[Note: Screener provided for the review by Netflix may have been an unfinished version, therefore certain elements like colouring and visual effects aren't taken into consideration fully.]

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