What do you get when you mix the talents of Jonathan Larson, creator of the Pulitzer-Prize-winning “Rent,” and the incredible Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrought the extraordinary “Hamilton?”
You get “tick tick …. BOOM!” one of the year’s finest films. It’s based on the semi-autobiographical musical about Larson, who wanted to create a memorable work before his 30th birthday.
Because of his tragic death from an aortic aneurysm at the age of 35, Larson never know how successful ‘Rent” was.
Andrew Garfield, as Larson, energetically carries the weight of this show, set in the 1990s, with an exuberance that never wanes.
We meet Jon, who works as a waiter at the Moondance diner in SoHo, as he is grappling with the idea of turning 30. He has spent years developing a science-fiction rock musical called “Superbia.”
He can’t get his agent to call him back, and still needs to write a major song before a workshop is held for his show. Jon grouses that Stephen Sondheim already had a hit Broadway musical at the age of 27 – now here Jon is looking 30 square in the face.
To add to his woes, his girlfriend Susan (Alexandra Shipp) has been offered a teaching position outside New York City. And Jon can’t help but feel pangs of jealousy when his best friend Michael (Robin de Jesùs) now has a great job with an advertising firm and lives in a beautiful apartment.
Miranda, once again, proves his genius, this time as a first-time director. He knows how to make each scene and musical number engage the audience. And there are Easter Eggs galore, from the actual voice of Sondheim in a phone call to the setting where the movie was shot: The New York Theatre Workshop, where “Rent” made its Off Broadway debut. You’ll also see some major Broadway stars in cameos (it wouldn’t be fair to spoil the surprise.)
The music, not surprisingly, is wonderful, and it’s delivered by a top-notch cast. There’s a strong possibility of an Oscar nomination in Garfield’s future.
For this bauble to be presented to musical lovers at the holiday season is perfect timing.
Running time: One hour and 55 minutes.
Rated: PG-13 for foul language, along with drug references, some suggestive sequences and other adult material.
Streaming on Netflix.
Watch the trailer here.