WHAT I LIKED: Steven Levenson and Lin Manuel Miranda's cinematic adaptation of Jonathan Larson's autobiographical 'Tick, Tick... Boom!' is a musical built on so many narrative fourth-wall breaks that it's a wonder it doesn't completely collapse under its own weight. But in fact, it's the movie's very method of unravelling its story which keeps you engaged.
It all follows Larson as an aspiring musical theatre writer (Andrew Garfield) getting ready for the first presentation of his musical 'Superbia,' which in turn is itself a self-referencial show about... writing 'Superbia.' Miranda then plays up that paradox to the max by constantly cutting between Larson's real-world writing and personal dilemmas, and them being played out in their final, performed form. When it comes to his writing dilemmas that's pretty amusing - we do after all know that the show eventually goes on - but when it comes to his central emotional conflict between moving away with his girlfriend and living a normal working life, or pursuing his creative career dream at the potential expense of that, it masterfully plays up the emotion, uncertainty and promise of both as there's constant talk in the show about a second act song at the crucial decision moment which he hasn't yet written.
That only adds fuel to the fire which is the compelling, age-old central conflict between pursuing dreams and reality that can be found at the heart of many musicals, and you care about this man's one even more because, like any great artist, he's written so doggedly peristent and anxious. But it's also because Garfield plays him so beautifully, and because his relationships feel so tangible and real both between and during the musical numbers.
All of that builds utterly exquisitely to that pivotal second act number, but when it's done, the film doesn't stop with its genius moves, as it then becomes about realising your time is limited so pursuing your dreams is the only option. That makes for a beautiful yet tragic conclusion that will have you in tears.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: There is a nagging sense of narcissism and self-obsession behind the central character's self-analysis and his use of friends as vehicles for his own dream-making. That would certainly feel like more of an issue in a film that loves him so much had someone as likeable as Garfield not been playing him.
VERDICT: 'Tick, Tick... Boom,' sees a story about the age-old conflict between an artist pursuing their creative dreams and a more realistic existence brought to life with a genius fourth-wall breaking narrative and masterful performances.