“Tick, Tick…BOOM!” movie review

By Hannah Foster | Staff Writer

Andrew Garfield gives a meaningful performance of Johnathan Larson “Tick, Tick…BOOM!” Photo courtesy of Netflix.

The 2021 film adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s play “Tick, Tick…BOOM!” directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda establishes itself as a marvel of movie musicals.  

Johnathan Larson’s show originally came out in 1992 and details his own experience as a struggling artist in New York. If you know the name Johnathan Larson, it is more than likely for his hit musical “Rent” (1994) and the subsequent film adaptation in 2005. Larson tragically never saw the success of “Rent” because he died from a brain aneurysm on the night before the show opened on Broadway. “Rent,” however, went on to change the musical theatre landscape with its rock ballads, commentary on the AIDs epidemic and a heartfelt depiction of the complexity of human life. 

In “Tick, tick…BOOM,” Larson retells a story of his own life on the cusp of being 30 as he tries to find happiness and love, as well as finish and produce his very first musical “Superbia.” The musical is a satirical science fiction show depicting society as glued to screens watching the lives of individuals with greater wealth and social standing than themselves.  

“Tick, Tick…BOOM” gives us glimpses into “Superbia” and features excellent sextet performances from the musical’s workshop. Larson took the “Superbia” script to workshops to share with others and received praise for it from the iconic Stephen Sondheim. Unfortunately, Larson never completed “Superbia,” so it can never be performed. The parts of the script that do exist are held in the Library of Congress, but the project will forever remain unfinished, unfortunately. 

“Tick, Tick…BOOM” is a one-man show written by and starring Jonathan Larson (Andrew Garfield). We see the events that inspired the creation of Larson’s show. Through this, we also see the hardships of his life as a struggling artist, but most notably, we watch him witness and support his friends suffering from AIDs.  

Cinematically, this movie is well done as the scenes flit back and forth from Larson’s performance of the play to the incidents the play recounts. With realistic set design and color, the film captures the essence of 1990’s New York. The music is expertly arranged, and the songs carry a pop-rock opera quality. Through his superb directing, Lin Manuel Miranda asserts himself as an articulate and sensitive director. Overall, this film deserves 5 out of 5 pinecones. 

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