Sundays at the Moondance Diner

tick, tick, BOOM!

Director: Lin-Manuel Miranda

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Vanessa Hudgens, Judith Light, Bradley Whitford, Ben Levi-Ross, Robin de Jesus, Lin-Manuel Miranda

Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes

Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10

This film is only available to watch on the Netflix streaming service

Oscar nominee Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge) takes on the role of struggling theatrical composer Jonathan Larson in director Lin-Manuel Miranda’s fascinating portrayal of his brief but explosive career in the musical film tick, tick, Boom!

Jonathan Larson’s most successful musical was a contemporary rendition of Puccini’s 1896 Opera La Boheme which become famously known as Rent. Rent, the Musical explored all the struggles of a group of young artists in New York City in the mid 1990’s amidst the worst of the AIDS crisis, and become one of the longest Broadway hit musicals running before it finally closed in 2008, grossing over $280 million in ticket sales.

Unfortunately the young and extremely talented Jonathan Larson would not see the fruits of his labour and the dynamic success of the musical he created.

As a musical film, tick, tick, Boom! Is fascinating to watch and actor turned director Lin-Manuel Miranda focuses more on the musical genius of Jonathan Larson and less on his actual life. Many of the key scenes in the film, particularly the countless arguments between Larson expertly played with a frenetic energy by Andrew Garfield and his girlfriend Susan played by Alexandra Shipp (Love, Simon; X-Men: Apocalypse) are interrupted by Larson breaking out into song which detracts from the emotional core of the film.

It is only in the second half of tick, tick, Boom! that director Lin-Manuel Miranda finds his feet and grounds the chaotic first half in a heart wrenching reality of struggling artists living in New York City battling to make ends meet amidst rejection, high rents and busking at the Moondance Diner.

In between all their struggles is the omniscient threat of extinction as the looming 1980’s and 1990’s AIDS crisis threatened to kill off most of the artistic community in New York prior to the invention of life-saving medication at the beginning of the 21st century. 

As a biographical story, tick, tick, Boom! does suffer from an overemphasis on song and dance while neglecting the real struggles that both gay and straight artists went through to make it in America’s toughest city: New York during the early 1990’s.

Fortunately, Andrew Garfield’s brilliant performance as Jonathan Larson holds this film together balanced by some extraordinary supporting roles including Judith Light as his tough as nails theatrical agent Rosa Stevens and Larson’s best friend, the gay advertising executive Michael wonderfully played with a brittle flamboyance by Robin de Jesus (The Boys in the Band).

Viewers need to know the backstory of Rent, the musical and do some research on Jonathan Larson before watching tick, tick, Boom as this film does not operate as a conventional biography and might be confusing to those not familiar with the context.

Tick, tick, Boom! gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is recommended for those that enjoy a historical slice of American musical theatre from over 30 years ago.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Larson

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