Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: Offensive language
Andrew Garfield as Jonathan Larson
Alexandra Shipp as Susan Wilson
Robin de Jesús as Michael
Joshua Henry as Roger Bart
Vanessa Hudgens as Karessa Johnson
Judith Light as Rosa Stevens
Director: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Based on the autobiographical musical by playwright Jonathan Larson. It’s the story of an aspiring composer in New York City who is worried he made the wrong career choice, whilst navigating the pressures of love and friendship.
I wasn’t sure about how to feel about Tick, Tick… Boom! going into it because musical theatre isn’t really my thing. I’m also not familiar with the musical its based on, nor Jonathan Larson, nor Rent. However it starred Andrew Garfield in the lead role and it was receiving awards attention, so I was willing to give it a go. I’m glad to say that I’m one of the people who liked the movie despite its issues.
Tick, Tick…Boom! Is based off Jonathan Larson’s semi autobiographical musical, which is partially based off his own life. The story from its premise is quite accessible, focussing on someone who is a struggling creator, very familiar premise and setup and one that plenty of people can identify with. It is a lively, fun and emotionally bittersweet ride throughout. Even if his direction is a little rough around the edges, director Lin-Manuel Miranda’s passion for Jonathan Larson and the story shines through clearly, and the heart, passion and admiration is felt throughout. There are issues though. There is certainly some cheesy writing, and the pacing has problems especially in the second act, with some moments that can really drag. There is also one thing that made the movie worse the more I thought about it. I like character studies about what it takes to make it big, but there’s some mixed messaging regarding Jonathan’s actions and who he was. Larson in this musical seems to alienate people around him in his pursuit for greatness, and so it became very difficult to be sympathetic with his plight, not helped by his friends going through comparatively harder struggles. Its not enough to bring down the movie but it is something that you do notice when watching.
If you need one reason to watch the movie, its Andrew Garfield, delivering one of his best performances, and he is very much the best part of the movie. So much of the movie relies on the lead performance, and he more than delivers. Garfield’s work feels very much alive, he is full of energy, charisma, life, and sadness, and he can really sing too. For all the issues that the writing has particularly with his character, Garfield sort of makes it work. The film belongs to him, but the other actors are good too, including Alexandra Shipp, Vanessa Hudgens, and especially Robin de Jesus.
This is director Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first film as a director, and as a film its quite rough around the edges. There wasn’t anything that special and it’s a little too safe, but as a debut, it was okay. Not all the choices work, but some of them really, such as the sound of ticking throughout. Some of the musical sequences were really well shot, there’s a number of flashy and fun musical moments. I did enjoy the songs and they are presented well for the most part, but I did find them somewhat forgettable, although that might just be me. The editing can be a little jarring, mostly because it is very inconsistent throughout. With that said, the non-linear storytelling and narration worked quite well for me.
Tick, Tick, Boom has its fair share of issues, mainly with the writing and directing. However I liked watching it, and the performances are great, particularly Andrew Garfield in the lead role. I do think its worth watching at the very least for Garfield here.