The story of Jonathan Larson is one of the most fascinating in all of show business, and has always felt ripe for a feature-film adaptation. Larson wrote the broadway-hit Rent when he was in his 30s, but would never live to see it actually play-out, as he died from an aneurism on the day of his first off-Broadway preview. Tick, Tick… Boom! doesn’t tell the story of Larson’s entire life, but instead of a brief period of time where he was trying to write and produce Superbia, an ambitious and apparently narratively confusing Broadway-hopeful. One of the most fascinating aspects of Tick, Tick… Boom! is how it isn’t a biopic whatsoever, but instead an insight into the harshness of the theater industry and how absolutely terrifying, exhausting, and maybe… eventually.. rewarding the creative process can be for you as an artist.
It’s also obviously worth noting that this film is directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame. While I’m not personally the biggest Hamilton fan in the world, he’s undeniably a great fit for this project. Throughout the production and press tour for this movie, Lin has been very vocal about how much inspiration he drew from not only Larson’s work but also his personal life and journey. And it makes all the sense in the world – Hamilton, for all the faults I have with it, undeniably shook up the musical scene in terms of style and music and is still holding strong today. Larson did something similar with Rent when he wrote it in the 90s. It feels very fitting!
There are moments where it’s abundantly clear that Lin-Manuel Miranda has never directed a feature film before, and it almost feels a bit too stylistic that it undermines the emotional core of the story. But even with those directing quirks at hand, Tick, Tick… Boom! is a pretty exciting and emotionally investing picture about the creative process. One of my favorite aspects of the film is how it plays out almost like a cautionary tale that never once romanticizes the process of writing, denials, and working a shitty job to make ends meet all while you’re trying to bring your art to life. The film has a genuine honesty to it, and I greatly appreciated that.
But the most memorable part of the film for me is the performance of Andrew Garfield as Jonathan Larson. In each and every frame, he exudes so much passion – whether it’s in a quieter, more reserved emotional moment or a moment of spontaneous song and dance or loud emotion, he just simply delivers all the nuances that this story requires. I usually hate giving my two cents on whether or not people will/should be nominated for awards this early in the game, but Garfield gives the best performance I’ve seen from an actor this year so far and I can’t imagine that he doesn’t walk away with at least a few nominations for this performance next year.