"Tick, Tick… Boom!" stars Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesús, Joshua Henry, Judith Light, and Vanessa Hudgens. Released on November 12, 2021, the film is about a theatre composer who endures a quarter-life crisis.
The film featured the directorial debut of Lin-Manuel Miranda, who composed music for productions like "In the Heights" and "Hamilton". It is based on the semi-autobiographical musical of the same name by Jonathan Larson. When you get close to a specific age, and you're not getting anywhere with your career, there's a good chance you might be on your way to awards glory. Today, I'm looking at another film that's pleasing its audiences with its drama and a whole bunch of musical numbers. Not only that, but it is also another movie that sees another musical jumping from the stage to the screen. This time, with Lin-Manuel Miranda in the director's chair for the first time. If you can't tell already, I've been constantly amazed by Miranda's previous works, notably in the music and acting departments. So seeing him take on the role as a filmmaker made me feel both ecstatic and curious as to how he'll pull it off. Based on the reviews it's been getting, it appears that his directorial debut may be as delightfully dynamic as his music. Now that I found the time to watch it on Netflix, let's see if it lives up to the hype.
The film takes place in 1990, where Jonathan Larson (Garfield) was preparing for a new musical called Superbia while working at the Moondance Diner. He hopes to succeed in the production before his 30th birthday like his idol Stephen Sondheim (Bradley Whitford). When tasked with writing a new song for Superbia, he feels pressured as he only has one week to come up with something grand. With the support of his friends and his girlfriend Susan Wilson (Shipp), Jonathan will have to race against the clock to accomplish his goal. The events are narrated by Larson, who performs the rock monologue of the same name at the New York Theatre Workshop. While the film is based on Larson's life, it includes several fictional sequences for dramatic (and musical) purposes. So it's no different than any other fact-based film. For a film adaptation of a musical to succeed, especially the dramatic ones, it needs two things: a story that lives up to the source material and an emotional core powered by its themes and songs. Some of them succeed with those qualities like "Grease" and "In the Heights", while others hit plenty of sour notes regarding their execution, including 2019's "Cats". I would consider "Tick, Tick… Boom!" to be one of the movie musicals that succeed in a significant way. I would even call it the best movie musical of the year. Aside from his work on Rent, I knew little to nothing about Jonathan Larson and his career before watching the film. Now that I viewed it, I felt that I learned plenty about the late theatre composer, even though some scenes are fictional. This was all thanks to its riveting screenplay by Steven Levenson, who also wrote "Dear Evan Hansen" and Miranda's direction. It explored Larson's creative struggle in an energetic and highly distinctive way. It also wasn't afraid to show off its dramatic side during the second half regarding the dialogue. There were times where the two different tones were at risk of overshadowing each other. Still, Miranda provided enough stability in his style to envision a lively and fun musical with a timely message. It represented a creative process that every writer has been through when coming up with something new. More importantly, it showed that time plays a crucial role in the story regarding Larson himself. He was constantly on the clock to write a new song, only to realize later on that his time was also running short on his friends. It's always important to find the right time to work on your career and support your loved ones. I thought this message was handled very well in the film and should resonate well with many people finding success. Another thing that impressed me the most was the cast, especially Andrew Garfield as Larson. This might be the best performance of Garfield's career so far, outshining his previous role in "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" by a mile. I could think of a bunch of reasons why I loved his performance, but I'm only giving you readers a few. He's immensely charismatic, his dramatic chops were terrific, and his singing voice was so heavenly that he deserves to have a solo album. Yeah, he's that good. Alexandra Shipp and Robin de Jesús also delivered outstanding performances as Susan and Michael, respectively, regarding their speaking and singing. Vanessa Hudgens was just as talented as ever as Karessa Johnson, who accompanies Jonathan with his monologue and Superbia. Since her "High School Musical" days, Hudgens has impressed me in almost every movie she's in, and her role here is no different. Then there were the songs, which Larson himself wrote. Spoiler alert: they were ecstatically marvelous. Each song was highly engaging and emotional without slowing the film down, and the musical numbers that accompanied them were wonderfully directed by Miranda.
Overall, "Tick, Tick… Boom!" is a time bomb that explodes with emotion and joyous music. From Garfield's show-stealing performance to the musical numbers, the film is a vigorous and thoughtful depiction of a writer's creative process. Lin-Manuel Miranda has been churning out some great music for as long as I can remember. This movie showed that his role behind the camera might be just as admirable as his songs. If you have Netflix and are familiar with Jonathan Larson's work, this is the production that deserves your attention this awards season.