In his feature film directorial debut, Lin-Manuel Miranda has bought Jonathan Larson’s autobiographical stage musical, Tick, Tick… Boom!, to the big screen. This narrative follows Jonathan (Andrew Garfield), the creator of Rent, who is in the process of writing the musical he hopes will be his big break on Broadway, while also dealing with the pressures of life in New York City.
Tick, Tick… Boom! is by no means a musical filled with sunshine and rainbows. It touches on some quite serious and emotionally impactful subject matter, with little upbeat moments of positivity sprinkled throughout. Because of the narrative’s subject matter, it naturally moves along at a pretty slow pace, giving us a play by play of Jonathan Larson’s life and how his experiences continue to shape his outlook on the future and what he wants to achieve. It’s a solid story and nice base for a movie, but it took a while for me to actually become invested in the characters and what they’re going through. The first two thirds of the movie’s narrative just didn’t resonate with me – I wasn’t hooked by the storytelling and it wasn’t giving me enough to want to follow this character-centric journey. There might have been a couple of individual moments here and there, but for the most part It didn’t grab me. That being said, going into the latter 30-45 minutes of the movie, there was some weight to the story and it became engaging enough to hold my attention. It’s predominantly due to the dramatic elements all coming to a head here, closing out on a high and making up for early moments lacking impact.
When it comes to the music, that’s where Tick, Tick… Boom! doesn’t put a foot wrong. All of the musical set-pieces in here are good, with some even being great. These scenes are each designed to either heighten the fun or enhance the emotional resonance of the story, and they are all pretty successful in doing so. I didn’t really have any issues with the music, and I thought the singing from the cast was great across the board.
The real star of the show is Andrew Garfield, who delivers a stellar lead performance, and without whom this movie just wouldn’t work on neither an emotional nor storytelling level. Every scene, regardless of how engaging the story is at the time, is heightened by Garfield’s committed performance. He transforms into the character and elevates scenes with raw emotion like it’s nothing, playing well against his co-stars. Besides Garfield, both Alexandra Shipp and Robin de Jesus have some key scenes throughout the movie in which they put their acting talents on full show. If anything much of the movie’s emotional content is driven by their characters and the strength of their performances.
In the end, Tick, Tick… Boom! evidently didn’t make much of an impact on me as I just don’t have a lot to say about it – good, bad or otherwise. I can appreciate the strength of the lead performances, the solid music and some elements of the story, but even then it didn’t resonate with me as much as I thought it would. Fans who are familiar with Rent and want to learn more about the man behind the curtain should certainly still check this one out as I’m sure there’s interesting qualities in here. Otherwise, it’s just not as enjoyable of an experience as I was looking for, and thus I’m left quite disappointed and unfulfilled by Tick, Tick… Boom!.