tick, tick… BOOM!

Any film that explores the creative process is fascinating to me. Anyone that starts with a blank page, be it the painter, the writer, the composer is impressive indeed. 

In this case we have the amazing story of Jonathan Larson in the years running up to him putting together the smash musical Rent. Played with incredible finesse and confidence by Andrew Garfield, Larson is seen approaching his 30th birthday and struggling to complete the one song that will finish his pièce de résistance. While juggling the relationship with his girlfriend, his gay friend and coworkers at the diner Larson is engaging, somewhat selfish and mostly relentless. The film was directed by someone perfectly positioned to present the story, Lin-Manuel Miranda. Miranda of course had some early success and then exploded with Hamilton. He brings a true master’s hand to the proceedings, capturing the lonely struggle of creating art.

The screenplay is by Steven Levenson, based on Larson’s musical.

The film is a musical about a musical, and a story within a story. Cleverly cutting back and forth from a production about the process of creating the eponymous musical, the film leaps across time in an appealing and engaging fashion.

The showstopper in the middle of the film would be the end of Act 1 had this all been presented on stage. Garfield bemoans the Sunday crush of brunch, and the diners are played by cameo legends from the Great White Way. (Miranda poignantly plays a cook in the scene). It is bravura filmmaking.

The cast is excellent throughout, with standout performances from Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesus, Vanessa Hudgens and in a small but crucial role Bradley Whitford as Stephen Sondheim.

If you find the half a dozen hours of Get Back too much to contemplate (The Beatles go from scratch to completion of their last album released), I urge you to spend a couple hours with tick, tick… BOOM!

You will spend much time thereafter pondering the wonder and mystery of creating art.


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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