TICK, TICK … BOOM! movie poster | ©2021 Netflix

TICK, TICK … BOOM! movie poster | ©2021 Netflix

Rating: PG-13
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesus, Vanessa Hudgens, Joshua Henry, Jonathan Marc Sherman, MJ Rodriguez, Ben Ross, Judith Light, Bradley Whitford
Writer: Steven Levenson, based on the stage musical by Jonathan Larson
Director: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Distributor: Netflix
Release Date: November 19, 2021

TICK, TICK … BOOM! the movie is based on the late Jonathan Larson’s stage musical TICK, TICK … BOOM!, which was about Jonathan Larson writing a musical. The movie can’t help having automatic added pathos by the fact of Larson’s death at the age of thirty-five, the night before his second produced musical, RENT, opened to the public. (This is addressed right at the start of the film, so it doesn’t count as a spoiler.)

With this out in the open, TICK, TICK … BOOM! plays less as a tragedy than the mixture of uplift and sorrow that Larson put into his work. Adapted by first-time film director Lin-Manuel Miranda, who knows a little something about striking it big on Broadway himself, and screenwriter Steven Levenson opens up TICK, TICK … BOOM! from Larson’s three-character stage version into a true serenade to New York City.

We meet Jonathan, played by Andrew Garfield, shortly before his thirtieth birthday. Jonathan, who often addresses us directly, is contending with all sorts of immediate problems. His girlfriend Susan (Alexandra Shipp) has been offered a steady teaching job in the Berkshires; tired of the starving artist life, she’s leaning towards taking it. Jonathan’s lifelong best friend and erstwhile roommate Michael (Robin de Jesus) has given up acting for advertising, and can now afford to live alone in a huge apartment. Jonathan has what he sees as a make-or-break showcase workshop performance of his new science-fiction musical, which is lacking a key song.

Most of all, Jonathan is afraid that if he doesn’t succeed as a musical theater writer by the time he’s thirty, he never will. After all, his hero Stephen Sondheim (played here with veracity by Bradley Whitford) had made it years earlier.

Jonathan puts all of his anxieties into song. The milieu and the music will both be generally familiar to fans of RENT, although TICK, TICK … BOOM! feels a little smaller in scope (people here gripe about their crappy landlords, but don’t band together in a rent strike).

The results are gently appealing, if never overwhelming. Garfield is engaging. De Jesus is dramatically powerful and is a brilliant dancer; when he starts moving, the film jolts into moments of greatness.

Shipp is very good, but in one of TICK, TICK … BOOM!’s several meta-issues, just as Susan complains about Jonathan seeing her very much as “the girlfriend,” despite his realizing how demoralizing that is for her, he has written her as, well, the girlfriend. There’s only so much Shipp can do with the part.

In a way that is pleasant but not transcendent, TICK, TICK … BOOM! is a solid, ingratiating portrait of the artist as a young man. The movie gives us what we want from the genre, and does justice to Larson’s wit and skill. It’s largely comfortable. This is a memoir of a life too short but well-lived. It earns the emotions it brings forth by letting the loss register, but not having it outweigh the sense of celebration.

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  1. Actors with two Jewish parents: Mila Kunis, Natalie Portman, Paul Rudd, Logan Lerman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bar Refaeli, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Adam Brody, Kat Dennings, Gabriel Macht, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Erin Heatherton, Lisa Kudrow, Lizzy Caplan, Gal Gadot, Debra Messing, Gregg Sulkin, Jason Isaacs, Jon Bernthal, Robert Kazinsky, Melanie Laurent, Esti Ginzburg, Shiri Appleby, Justin Bartha, Margarita Levieva, James Wolk, Elizabeth Berkley, Halston Sage, Seth Gabel, Corey Stoll, Michael Vartan, Mia Kirshner, Alden Ehrenreich, Julian Morris, Asher Angel, Debra Winger, Eric Balfour, Dan Hedaya, Emory Cohen, Corey Haim, Scott Mechlowicz, Harvey Keitel, Odeya Rush, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy.

    Aaron Taylor-Johnson is Jewish, too (though I don’t know if both of his parents are).

    Actors with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers: Timothée Chalamet, Jake Gyllenhaal, Dave Franco, James Franco, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Daniel Radcliffe, Alison Brie, Joaquin Phoenix, River Phoenix, Emmy Rossum, Ryan Potter, Rashida Jones, Jennifer Connelly, Sofia Black D’Elia, Nora Arnezeder, Goldie Hawn, Kristen Stewart, Ginnifer Goodwin, Judah Lewis, Brandon Flynn, Amanda Peet, Eric Dane, Jeremy Jordan, Joel Kinnaman, Ben Barnes, Patricia Arquette, Aidan Gallagher, Kyra Sedgwick, Ali MacGraw, Ryan O’Neal, Dave Annable, and Harrison Ford (whose maternal grandparents were both Jewish, despite those Hanukkah Song lyrics).

    Actors with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, who themselves were either raised as Jewish and/or identify as Jewish: Ezra Miller, Zac Efron, David Corenswet, Alexa Davalos, Nat Wolff, Tiffany Haddish, James Maslow, Josh Bowman, Andrew Garfield, Winona Ryder, Gwyneth Paltrow, Michael Douglas, Ben Foster, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nikki Reed, Jonathan Keltz, Paul Newman.

    Oh, and Ansel Elgort’s father is Jewish, though I don’t know how Ansel was raised. Robert Downey, Jr., Sean Penn, and Ed Skrein were also born to Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers. Armie Hammer, Chris Pine, Emily Ratajkowski, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, and Finn Wolfhard are part Jewish.

    Actors with one Jewish-born parent and one parent who converted to Judaism: Dianna Agron, Sara Paxton (whose father converted, not her mother), Alicia Silverstone, Jamie-Lynn Sigler.


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