I’m not a fan of musicals on film. The only ones I’ve actually watched and liked were the ones on Disney Channel, with High School Musical (the sequel, in particular) taking a special place in my heart. It takes a lot for a musical to really take me by surprise, and those include ones that manage to mix the music and the drama in equal amounts. I did not like Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story, because I just did not vibe with the transitions from dramatic moments to musical numbers. Tick, Tick… Boom! on the other hand, completely took me by surprise and will sit on top of my film recommendations for 2021.
Tick, Tick… Boom! is an autobiographical tale of musical genius Jonathan Larson, who performed the eponymous rock monologue in the early nineties recounting his days before entering the world of theatre. The late Larson is most famous for Rent, the show which premiered off-Broadway a day after his untimely passing. While Rent may be his most successful work, the film focuses on the days leading up to the workshop premiere of Larson’s unproduced Superbia, leading him to narrate his story with Tick, Tick… Boom! a few years after the fact.
I’ve always liked Andrew Garfield on screen - the guy has a natural charisma and immense talent, and he was Spider-Man! With Tick, Tick… Boom! Garfield manages to reach new heights, adding incredible vocal talent to his growing list of skills. Lin-Manuel Miranda debuts as an excellent director with the film, bringing everything he has learned from his works in theatre to the silver screen in a virtually effortless way.
I managed to somehow miss Tick, Tick… BOOM! last year and just rectified that mistake now.— Rahul Majumdar (@darthrahul) January 7, 2022
Oh my god is this a great film!
I’ll be shocked if I don’t see Andrew Garfield at the very least nominated by the academy, expertly directed by Lin Manuel Miranda.
100% will recommend. pic.twitter.com/fW31B3GXSL
Of course, Miranda has had some experience with the medium of film through his work being adapted by other filmmakers, but his control over every element including getting the best out of his actors, blocking, pacing, and finding the perfect musical melodies to tackle for the big screen is incredibly impressive.
With this genre, balancing the tone between the dramatic scenes and the musical numbers is crucial, as swaying either way too much can lose a viewer who may not be inclined to like the other part as much. Tick, Tick… Boom! balances both splendidly, with certain sequences such as “Therapy” being a masterclass.
I would be remiss if I didn’t spare a few words to champion the film’s phenomenal supporting cast, primarily Alexandra Shipp as Susan (Larson’s then-girlfriend), Vanessa Hudgens as Karessa and Robin de Jesús as Michael (Larson’s best friend), who all the bring the best and worst out of Garfield when needed.
Tick, Tick… Boom! is a story for every artist to experience, with a potentially career-best performance from Andrew Garfield elevated by a talented supporting cast, delightful music, and an extremely strong directorial debut by Lin-Manuel Miranda. It’s great, and I would love to watch it on the big screen if it were possible. For now, Netflix will do.