Tuesday, November 23, 2021

TICK TICK..BOOM! My review

When Mike Nichols was finishing up his splashy anti-war movie, CATCH-22, the movie version of MASH came out.  Nichols saw it and essentially said, “Shit! That movie did everything I tried to do but way better.”   Steven Spielberg’s glittery remake of WEST SIDE STORY comes out this season.  I wonder if he saw TICK TICK… BOOM and said the same thing.

TICK TICK… BOOM is quite simply the best movie of the year — I don’t care how many Princess Diana rehashes come out.  Unlike a lot of critics, I’m not going to bore you with seven paragraphs of “major triumph!” “towering achievement!” “best film Lin Manual-Miranda has ever directed!” (it’s his first).  

Just know it’s all of those things and more.  The story, the storytelling, the visuals, the music, and even a cameo by Chita Rivera (that must piss off Spielberg too) —  TICK TICK… BOOM delivers on every front.   (Note:  there are tons of cameos of Broadway notables.)  

Lin Manual-Miranda appear to be brilliant in everything he attempts.  For this project he was clearly influenced (heavily) by Bob Fosse’s ALL THAT JAZZ.  The same quick cutting, constant motion, visually exciting presentation.  And all for a purpose — to really put you into that world and lose yourself in the emotional depth of the journey.  

To me the big surprise was Andrew Garfield.  Spiderman can really sing! And dance!  Ryan Gosling can’t carry his pitch pipe.  If Rami Malek won an Oscar for playing Freddie Mercury, Andrew Garfield deserves two for playing Jonathan Larson.

If you’re not familiar with the story, it’s about Jonathan Larson, who wrote RENT but tragically died of an aortic dissection at 35 the night before it was to open off-Broadway.  Prior to that, Larson had spent eight years working on a sci-fi musical that went nowhere, and a one-man show about that experience and his struggles that he performed himself called TICK TICK…BOOM.   The movie opens up the one-man show by dramatizing events, showing flashbacks, and creating imaginative glorious production numbers.  

The movie was written by Steven Levenson.  TICK TICK… BOOM is the best film musical in years.  Ironically, Levenson also wrote maybe the worst film musical in decades — DEAR EVAN HANSEN.  From the cellar to the penthouse in one year.  (Says something about the director’s vision, doesn’t it?)

You might think TICK TICK…BOOM is just for Broadway and theatre nerds.  You would be wrong.  I loved this movie and I didn’t like RENT.  It’s for everyone.    If you read this blog you’re probably interested in the creative process whether you’re in entertainment or not.  Well, this movie deals with the creative process in spades.  

It’s playing in select theaters and Netflix.  Don’t watch it on your phone.

On to WEST SIDE STORY.  I plan on watching with an open mind even though there’s no Natalie Wood in this version.  Will it be another TICK TICK…BOOM or IN THE HEIGHTS?   In the meantime, I think I’ll watch ALL THAT JAZZ again. 

30 comments :

Unknown said...

"All That Jazz" is brilliant--the first R rated movie I ever saw and it was being shown at a public library VHS event. (Since many people did not have VHS players yet, the public library would screen one from their collection every day in an event room.)I rewatched it recently and it is still amazing, disturbing and my husband even likes it and he hates musicals.

I look forward to seeing on your recommendation "Tick Tick... BOOM!"
Kathryn a librarian

Mibbitmaker said...

Mike Nichols clearly agreed with MAD magazine, however coincidentally. The movie Hawkeye and Trapper made a cameo in the last panel, one saying, "Mainly, WE did this "Insane War Picture" bit FIRST... and BETTER!!

(the way it's typed in the magazine)

Unknown said...

As a life-long lover of all kinds of musicals - and a fan of both Lin-Manuel Miranda and Andrew Garfield (and Bradley Whitford, who plays Stephen Sondheim in this!) I am eager to see "TTB". Your rave review only sharpens my eagerness.

Trivia note - Miranda played Roy Scheider in the mini-series Fosse/Verdon, in the episode where Sam Rockwell's Bob Fosse makes "All That Jazz" which I just rewatched recently and loved as much as the first time.

Oh, and I remain unimpressed by "Dear Evan Hansen,"

zapatty said...

I also revere ALL THAT JAZZ. Bob Fosse has always been a hero of mine. Lin-Manuel Miranda was one of the driving forces behind the terrific FOSSE/VERDON series (available on FX), and plays Roy Scheider (as Joe Gideon) in a cameo.

Kosmo13 said...

I'd like to see "Tick Tick... BOOM!" on a double-feature with the Jim Brown flick "Tick... Tick... Tick!"

Gary Conrad said...

Well said, thanks Ken. I too loved this exquisite film. Here's hoping it finds a huge audience, thanks for beating the drum!

kcross said...

I just went and saw the teaser on Netflix. It looks like we'll be making time to watch it tonight.

BTW: If you don't have Apple+, then the musical "Come From Away" is *well* worth using your free 1 month trial for. The production, the choreography, the acting and even the credits are good.

Eric J said...

Put Tick Tick Boom on my watch list.

I was surprised at the Mick Nichols comment. I enjoyed Catch-22, the movie and the book, about equally. I come from 3 generations of career military officers so the humor had a second level for me.

I liked MASH the book at a time when I was a Hunter Thompson fan. Somehow it had a similar feel to me. I thought the movie was a hot mess. Funny moments, but mostly I couldn't stand either of the lead characters in the movie.

Frankly, I still think MASH, the TV show, is superior to both movies, but there's more time for character development in a series. I am so grateful that the series didn't follow the book or the movie versions. I doubt it would have lasted a season if it had.

Lemuel said...

Philistine that I am, I like the Rent parody in TEAM AMERTCA: WORLD POLICE. Though I also appreciate Fosse. How about the Rich Peoples' Frug in SWEET CHARITY?

Pat Reeder said...

I'm a musical theater buff, so I'll see this, even though I'm also not a fan of "Rent." Here's a story you might appreciate: my niece posted a photo of her family on Facebook, showing them as the only people in a big, empty movie theater, waiting for a film to start. I jokingly commented, "Did you enjoy 'Dear Evan Hanson'"? She didn't even get the joke and replied, "Yes, we saw it in New York and wanted to see the movie." Somehow, finding out that it actually was the movie they were in the empty theater to see made it Evan Funnier to me.

Jay said...

I knew nothing about Jonathan Larson's story, I have never seen Rent (I am familiar with the "5,000, yada yeda yada minutes" song though), and I'm not much into musical theater, but man did I love this movie. Like you, I was taken by all the performances, the songs and the direction. But like you mentioned in your post, I am very interested in the creative process, and boy, did I relate A LOT to Larson's story. The movie was both entertaining and moving.

scottmc said...

I greatly appreciated your review. (I don't have Netflix so I saw the movie in a theatre, my first venture into a movie house since the pandemic. I saw the the musical off-Broadway with Raul Esparza as Jonathan.) I agree with your take on Andrew Garfield's performance. I also liked that you mentioned the influence of All That Jazz.(Coincidently, tonight on the Decades Channel they are airing the two-part Dick Cavett interview with Bob Fosse which was done around the time All That Jazz was released.) The musical ran about 90 minutes, the movie is about thirty minutes longer. But Miranda didn't just pad or open up the story. It dug a little deeper. The supporting cast was also quite good. On stage, Stephen Sondheim was an off stage presence. I believe the voice message used at the end of the film was the same that Sondheim left Larson. I don't think he rerecored it. I agree that Garfield should receive Academy Award consideration, as should the film.

Mitch said...

WAIT!! HE dies at the end???
Come on!!! Mention Spoiler alert!

gottacook said...

Kosmo13: Make it a triple feature with Boom! (1968) as the third film.

Also a big All That Jazz fan here. The DVD has Scheider's commentary track, sparse but always to the point, recorded in 2001.

blinky said...

I wondered if you had seen Deadpool 2 and what you thought of it.
In my opinion is by far the best superhero movie that I have ever seen. It ticks off all the superhero must-haves like big explosions and CG battles but also has a compelling story. I think it's hilarious but from a writing standpoint I think it's also an excellent screenplay. It has something that most big budget movies don't have: a coherent story that follows its own rules and sets things up so the conclusion is satisfying and logical. It's fun because from a creative standpoint it actually breaks the fourth wall and comments on the movie and moviemaking. Anyway if you can stand the foul language I'd love to hear what your thoughts are.

Philly Cinephile said...

gottacook: Whenever someone references BOOM! in an online comments section, an angel gets its wings.

VincentS said...

Just watched in on Netflix on your recommendation, Ken. Loved it. Thanks.

slgc said...

My problem is that I LOVED tick, tick...Boom! Off-Broadway, and have listened to the cast recording many times (30/90 is the song that got me through my 40th birthday). The songs were truncated in the film, and Andrew Garfield's voice isn't nearly as wonderful as Raul Esparza's, so I was a bit disappointed while watching the movie.

However, my husband was never as much a fan of the stage version of the show, and he really preferred the movie's expanded storyline.

But do yourself a favor and listen to the Off-Broadway soundtrack; it's wonderful.

MikeN said...

A writer wrote a movie about a writer who wrote a play starring a writer writing a science fiction work?

Is this a bottle episode of Mad Man?

DBenson said...

A Friday question: Did you ever have that reputed Nichols moment? Where you were on the home stretch of a project you were excited about, and suddenly you discover you've not only been scooped, but outdone?

Pete Grossman said...

Looking forward to this as I'm not a fan of Rent either. There, I said it.

Pat Reeder said...

To DBenson: James Thurber wrote in "My Life and Hard Times" that it was the curse of the professional humorist to fear that the piece he'd just spent the past week working on was done much better and funnier by Robert Benchley back in the 1920s. So not only do comedy writers fear that what they're writing isn't original, the fear that it's not original also isn't original. Thurber expressed it first.

slgc said...

I never loved Rent either (although some of its songs are beautiful).

stephen catron said...

Today we agree 100%. All That Jazz is so good(points off for the godawful Kiss like band at the end) and Tick Tick Boom is by far one of the best movie musicals ever. Absolutely loved it.

whynot said...

Oh yea, sure sounds like you have an "open mind" when it comes to Mr. Spielberg and his work. Sounds like he turned you down at some point in your career, and only one of you has been able to get past it.

The fact that the new WSS didn't make all the actors wear dark makeup like the original already qualifies IT as the best picture of the year. And you're forgetting, without Mr. Spielberg there would be no Mr. Miranda (who I would argue has never even come close to Hamilton again - compared to a person who made Schindlers List and Jurassic Park at the same time).

Opinions...everybody has one...

David said...

We watched Tick Tick Boom last night, in part due to your rave review, and loved it. The "Sunday" scene blew my mind, even if I don't have the Broadway knowledge base to appreciate it the way some fans do, and while I found the story a bit uneven for a while, somewhere around the workshop scene, the film jumped to another level, and stayed there through the credits. Thanks for the recommendation.

thomas tucker said...

Also watched it based on your recommendation and give it two thumbs up, even though I couldn’t stand Rent. I don’t like scream singing.

D. McEwan said...

"Eric J said...
I was surprised at the Mick Nichols comment. I enjoyed Catch-22, the movie and the book, about equally. I come from 3 generations of career military officers so the humor had a second level for me.

I liked MASH the book at a time when I was a Hunter Thompson fan. Somehow it had a similar feel to me. I thought the movie was a hot mess. Funny moments, but mostly I couldn't stand either of the lead characters in the movie.
"

There's no way around the fact that M*A*S*H was a huge hit and Catch-22 bombed. I love the movie of Catch-22 (I have it on DVD. I don't have M*A*S*H), and consider it highly under-rated, especially since I considered the book almost unfilmable. I wrote to Buck Henry a few years ago (Less than ten) to tell him how much I admired the job he did adapting that highly difficult book for the screen. Buck wrote back to say he too remained proud of the movie. And the cast is incredible! (And I consider the novel to be the finest comic novel of the entire 20th Century. On the other hand, I never got through the novel of M*A*SH.) I should add that when Joe Heller saw the movie of C-22, he loved it.

I think that, if M*A*S*H hadn't been made, Catch-22 would have been a hit, but M*A*S*H was a crowd-pleaser that didn't turn into a sour downer in its last half hour.

When I first read Catch-22, back in high school, well before the movie was made, my dad, who served in WWII, and who often would read books that profoundly affected me to monitor what I was putting in my head, read it right after me. Dad liked it very much, but he did not think it was funny - at all! To him, it was almost a documentary. He told me, "That was EXACTLY what it was like. There is no comic exaggeration, no hyperbole. The brass were genuinely that dangerously insane." Both of my parents became big fans of the TV series of M*A*S*H, which was particularly odd for Mother, as she was a Christian Scientist who hated doctors and all medical science (And who denied me all medical care growing up. Christian Scientists: they're psychos). It was the only medical TV show she ever watched.

"kcross said...
BTW: If you don't have Apple+, then the musical "Come From Away" is *well* worth using your free 1 month trial for. The production, the choreography, the acting and even the credits are good.
"

I saw both Dear Evan Hanson and Come From Away onstage about a month apart. I liked the score of DEH but otherwise did not like it at all. Come From Away is GREAT!

scottmc said...

It was just announced that Stephen Sondheim has died. He was 91.

Leighton said...

I lasted fifteen minutes. Garfield's acting in this film is too forced. And, yes, I can easily see Miranda's touch.