I gradually came to respect Lin Manuel Miranda‘s Tick Tick…Boom (Netflix, now streaming). I was even emotionally affected by it in the second half, but man, what a struggle. Mine, I mean.
Based on Larson’s 1990 stage musical of the same name, it’s about Larson himself (Andrew Garfield) struggling and feeling desperate and anxious and needing so hard to get his material produced and seen…to get up and over…he constantly sweats and strains and feels awful about not being a success at age 30, and the movie puts you right into the misery pit with the poor guy, and it’s no picnic, let me tell you.
Tick, Tick…Boom is a “musical based on a musical about writing a musical”, and I’m telling you that the first 20 or 25 minutes of this film, directed by Lin Manuel Miranda, will make you go “oh, no…please, no.” I was in agony. Garfield is pushing so hard, turning on the “charm” and emphatic personality, singing with a not-great singing voice, so much “sell” in his performance…buh-bo-buh-bo-bo!
Art isn’t easy, but watching a poor, exhausted, stressed-out guy trying to make good art isn’t easy either.
But after 30 or 40 minutes of torture I began to settle into the story and I began to feel and even identify with Larson’s pain. I’ve been there. In ’78 and ’79 I was poor as a churchmouse and living in a Soho cockroach flat and trying to get rolling as a movie critic and interviewer, and my theme song was Gerry Rafferty‘s “Baker Street.” (“And you’re cryin’, you’re cryin’ now”) I know all about that agony and fear and desperation so don’t tell me.
Incidentally “Baker Street” is a much catchier and more arresting tune than anything in Larson’s Tick Tick score. Sorry.
Friendo to HE: “I hate all of the people in this thing. People don’t talk like this in real life. It’s very 2021. They’re all talking in woke-speak. It’s the modern left’s idea of the perfect sensitive person movie, Except nobody will give a single shit about it.”
HE to Friendo: “I groaned when Susan, his LatinX-woman of color girlfriend (Alexandra Shipp), left him because he’s too consumed in his work. Earth to Susan: All creatively-driven types are consumed by their work. It goes with the territory. The real loves of Larson’s life were, of course, his music and Stephen Sondheim.
Friendo to HE: “I felt badly for his plight but this script is just terrible.”
HE to Friendo: “And for all of it, we don’t get the grand payoff that is Larson’s Rent….Rent is years away when the film ends. I took Jett with me to see Rent at the Nederlander when he was eight or thereabouts, and he wasn’t a fan.”
Friendo to HE: “The best thing this movie could have done was point out how different things were in the 90s. But of course it doesn’t. It’s very 2021.”
HE to Friendo: “Well, he does write his lyrics on an old Apple computer. Those little models they had in the early to mid ‘90s.”
Friendo to HE: “I guess so but the woke stuff is too modern. I think if they wanted to show that times had changed they would hint around about some people still being in the closet. When did Ellen come out? I guess I just mean it would add context, texture, tension.”
HE to Friendo: “I only know that these kids who were pumped and full of life and longing and hurting so dramatically and flamboyantly… I wanted to run and hide. Then again it’s reflective of Rent and La Boheme in that these 20 somethings have it very rough. Life is always demanding, arduous, frustrating. I was saying to myself ‘well, at least nobody is dying of AIDS’ and then WHAM, his gay friend is suddenly HIV POZ, which was all but a death sentence in the early ‘90s.”
Friendo to HE: “Pandering to the woke makes for the worst movies. I hate to say that. It makes me sound like the worst person. But this film lacks depth, truth, humility. The best movies are about exposing hypocrisy and flaws and solving emotional riddles.”