REVIEW: Tick, Tick … BOOM!


“This is the life, bo bo bo bo bo…” and oh what a life Larson led.

Lin-Manuel Miranda makes his directorial debut with “tick, tick…BOOM!”, the true story of legendary playwright, Jonathan Larson. The film stars Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, and Vanessa Hudgins, who bring to life the tale of how Larson, on the cusp of his 30th birthday, is trying to make it to the big leagues on Broadway, all while risking the stability of his relationships with his friends, family, and girlfriend.

I don’t even know where to begin with praise for this movie since there are so many positives. Garfield possibly gives his greatest performance since “Hacksaw Ridge”. He blew me away on so many levels. I had my doubts about him playing Larson when I first saw the promotional trailers. Not only did he exceed my expectations with his amazingly energetic acting, his singing left me too stunned to formulate words.

Recently, Garfield revealed in an interview with Stephen Colbert that he is not a singer, and that he had to spend a year training to properly sing. Let me reiterate: a year is how long it took for him to sing like that. The man sang better after one year than I can after five years of lessons. There was a beautiful scene in the beginning of the film where Garfield performs Larson’s famous song “Boho Days” and he was an absolute force of nature. This is just one example out of too many to count where he absolutely dominates the scene.

Speaking of the soundtrack … damn. I can’t exactly pinpoint what song is my favorite because there are too many powerful songs to choose from. All the songs were incredible no question, but none hit me harder than Garfield’s rendition of “Why.”

I won’t spoil anything, but there is something that happens to Michael, Larson’s best friend since childhood, that briefly causes him to mentally spiral. He sits down at a piano and begins to sing about it, and during the song, Miranda uses real footage of Larson with his real-life best friend, Matt O’Grady, (who the character Michael was based on).

Folks, this scene absolutely broke me. The way Miranda utilizes actual footage to accompany the song tugged at my heartstrings so much I started sobbing. Memories of my childhood with my best friend since kindergarten, Kyle (shout out to you dude), flooded my mind and filled me with overwhelming nostalgia. Overall, Miranda has successfully brought ridiculous amounts of passion and energy to the soundtrack.

Another thing I absolutely loved about this movie is its usage of a ticking noise. As the story progresses, we begin to learn that turning 30 and not having much to show for it is a huge stressor for him.

Furthermore, we understand that Larson is on a tight schedule with immense pressure to finish one last song that he’s finding it impossible to write, which prohibits him from doing anything aside from working and writing. Whenever he feels especially under the gun or is pulled away from his artistic focus by his relationships or the necessity to pay his bills, the ticking sound can be heard, sometimes going at an alarming rate. This mechanic is genius as it not only serves as his own mental reminder but also pulls the audience in and allows us to feel his stress and anxiety right along with him. We can hear the clock saying, “Pick up the pace…time is winning, you are not!”

The film is not concerned with side characters, which has been a disappointment to some, though I am barely bothered by it. Usually, I’m all about character development in more than just the lead, but the whole point of this film is to tell Larson’s story, and we don’t need to know anything more about the characters than what was revealed. The side characters are a means to an end–they are there solely to give context and strengthen our understanding of Larson’s motivations for what he does and how he lives.

To put it in simple terms, this film is a must-watch. While I do admit that it might have been interesting to see more interactions from the other characters, that’s a miniscule nitpick and, as I said earlier, is not necessary in telling the story of John Larson . “tick, tick…BOOM!” is now streaming on Netflix and I urge all my readers to sit down and watch this incredibly moving and thought-provoking movie.

Is it a film that asks us to cherish the moments we spend with the ones we love before life gets the better of us, or is it one that makes an argument for focusing on your art and following your passions regardless of the cost?

Go see it and decide for yourselves.


Jury declares: A