Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directorial debut Tick, Tick… Boom! gained more traction than he probably had hoped for. Adapted from Jonathan Larson’s musical, the film was written for the big screen by Steven Levenson.
The film revolves around a small portion of the composer Jonathan Larson’s life, starring Andrew Garfield in the role. The beginning of the film is successful in grabbing the attention of the viewers, as we often hear Larson talking about his life in a playful and intriguing manner, not dragging on endlessly but also not giving away too many details for the curiosity of the viewers to take a fall.
Though there are multiple intertwined plots throughout the approximately two hours of music-infused semi-biography, the main focus remains on Larson’s attempt at creating a musical piece, for which he spends years, re-writing and re-arranging the lyrics. This is, though, not the most interesting part of the film, because it follows the formula that has been used dozens of times by Hollywood. The main plot is straightforward and nothing surprising at all.
The supporting roles, on the other hand, are what makes the film interesting. The film explores their struggles, though mostly, in relation to how they are affected by Larson’s ambitions. This is expanded upon by an interesting choice of cast, who fulfil their roles satisfyingly.
Andrew Garfield has proven himself multiple times with his previous work as he usually picks his roles well, and he delivers just as successfully this time around too. His charm and lightheaded acting in this case works wonders for the lovable main character. He treads very carefully between optimistic and enthusiastic, and creates a good balance, which leads to the motivated and focused character arc that gets the message across.
Though there is another issue that I hesitate writing about, which is that the music in the film is just not very gratifying. Of course, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s experience in the music department is nothing that can be overlooked, and that is not a claim that I am attempting to make. Separately, Tick, Tick… Boom! is based on a successful musical, so this probably alienates me from most of the audience.
There is nothing wrong with the soundtrack per se, the songs hold their own quite well if I may say so. They are not inadequately written, nor do they sound off at any moment, and I am saying this as someone who really enjoys musicals. There are two problems that end up taking away the magic of the ‘musical part of the musical’: for one, the songs resurface with far too many sequences in between. And then, they are not always timed well according to the feeling that the previous scene was attempting to convey.
The award ceremonies where Tick, Tick… Boom! has been nominated or has already received awards seem to either agree with that notion or have similar reasons not to be blown away by the musical portion of the film, given that the most prominent awards and/or nominations were mostly for the performance of Andrew Garfield. Granted, Garfield does a grand job, but it is also not necessarily a good sign that his acting overshadows the core of the film.
Does this mean the musical aspect is not enjoyable? Of course not, but at the same time, the wasted potential is too clear to overlook it. Nevertheless, one can see how Lin-Manuel Miranda might be able to establish himself as a very unique director, if he can work out some details that have impacted his directorial debut.