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Monday, June 14, 2021

Movie Music Monday: The countdown officially begins for Lin-Manuel Miranda's film of Jonathan Larson's tick... tick... BOOM!

Film Flam Flummox

Ubiquitous multimedia multi-hyphenate Lin-Manuel Miranda has a number of projects set to hit the big screen following this past weekend's release of Jon M. Chu's adaptation of his first show, In the Heights, including a pair of animated features featuring new songs from the actor/writer/composer, Sony and Netflix's Vivo and Disney's Encanto. Completing the set of live action bookends for his cinema year is his film directorial debut, which actually does not feature any of his music, for it's an adaptation of another stage composer's work, the late Jonathan Larson's tick, tick... BOOM!.

The show originated as an autobiographical one-man show for the future Rent writer/composer in 1990, and then it was ultimately revamped and reconfigured five years after Larson's untimely death into a modest, semi-autobiographical but very thinly veiled, three-actor piece that has earned a devoted cult following thanks to a number of Off-Broadway and regional productions since 2001. The recently released first teaser trailer for Miranda's film version shows that he and screenwriter Steven Levenson (the man responsible for the (inexplicable, in this writer's opinion) current Broadway sensation Dear Evan Hansen) have dropped the "semi-" from "semi-autobiographical," making a musical biopic somewhat akin to what Dexter Fletcher did to the life of Elton John with Rocketman. The big question that arose since the film began production is the singing abilities of lead Andrew Garfield as Larson. The teaser doesn't quite answer that query, for it surprisingly offers very little actual music, let alone music sung by its leading man. A slight taste of Garfield's voice comes at the beginning, with him briefly leading a group singalong of the cut-for-the-stage Larson tune "Boho Days"; he sounds perfectly fine, but given it's a tossed-off, casual in-scene bit, it's hard to gauge whether he can pull off more strenuous numbers like the heartwrenching 11-o'clock number "Why." What can be assessed off-hand is the appropriateness of Garfield's casting, and rocking Larson's unruly head of hair atop his own naturally tall and lanky frame, he rather eerily resembles the real thing. The only other song sample is literally a line from the show's closer, "Louder Than Words" (alas, I fully expect my favorite song from the show, the showstopping power ballad "Come to Your Senses"--set to be performed in the film by Vanessa Hudgens--will be saved for the release of the film proper), but the aim of this first look seems to selling the story first, music second. Given his own life and work, Miranda unsurprisingly conveys the existential angst of an ambitious artist trying to make a mark as time all too palpably ticks by in these two minutes, which also offers tantalizing glimpses of his flair for filming elaborately fanciful and cinematic production numbers.

Lin-Manuel Miranda's film of Jonathan Larson's tick, tick... BOOM! is set for release in select cinemas and on Netflix sometime this fall.

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