Tick…Tick…Boom! is a 2021 American biographical musical drama film directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda and is written by Steven Levenson, based on the stage musical of the same name by Jonathan Larson, it is a semi-autobiographical film story about Larson writing a musical to try to enter into the theater industry. The film stars Andrew Garfield as Larson, alongside Vanessa Hudgens, Robin de Jesus, Alexandra Shipp, Joshua Henry and Judith Light.
In 1992, Jonathan Larson performs his rock monologue Tick…Tick…Boom! at New Theater Workshop with his friends Roger and Karessa. He describes an annoying ticking sound he hears in his head and begins to tell his story. An unseen narrator explains the films is the true story of Larson, “except the parts Jonathan made up.”
In early 1990, Jonathan balances work at the Moondance Diner in SoHo with getting ready for a workshop for his musical Superbia. He feels pressure to be successful before he turns 30: with his birthday just over a week away, he sees the workshop as his last chance. He has a party at his apartment with his friends, including his former roommate Michael and his girlfriend Susan. Susan tells Jonathan about a teaching job at Jacob’s Pillow and asks him to come. Michael, who recently left theater for a mediocre advertising career, sees Susan’s offer as a chance for Jonathan to consider a serious future and invites him to join an advertising focus group at his company. Jonathan’s producer asks him to write a new song for Superbia because the story needs it. This depresses him, as his idol Stephen Sondheim told him the same thing at a composong workshop several years prior, but can’t come up with anything and he only has a week.
Jonathan finds himself unable to concentrate on getting ready for the workshop as he thinks about Michael and Susan’s offers. His worries grow when he learns from Carolyn (friend from the diner) that Freddy (also works at the diner), is HIV-positive, has been hospitalized. Susan angry at Jonathan’s hesitance to make a decision and obsession with his career, breaks up with him.
To get money for a full band for the workshop, Jonathan attends the advertising focus group. However, he purposefully ruins it, making Michael mad, who feels Jonathan is wasting the chance to have a life with the person he loves on an unstable theater career, something Michael can’t do as a homosexual man in the AIDS crisis. After getting a promising call from his agent Rosa, Jonathan tries to write the new song, but his power get cut off. He goes to a swimming pool to rant his frustrations over his personal life and the workshop, before coming up with the new song at last. At the workshop are friends, family, industry professionals, including Sondheim. Jonathan recieves praise but no offers to produce Superbia. Discouraged, Jonathan begs Michael for a job in his company, but Michael changes his mind after seeing the workshop and urges Jonathan to continue with his theater career, revealing that he is HIV-positive.
Though I haven’t seen Tick…Tick..Boom! on stage, I did enjoy Larson’s Rent on stage and the film version, though it was not as good as the stage production. Rent is a wonderful story filled with wonderful music. I thought it was terribly cheesy and depressing at first, but once I saw both the movie one and the stage one, I fell in love with it and I now wish this musical could continue on stages forever just like other greats like Chicago and Fiddler on the Roof.
Andrew Garfield does an outstanding job as Jonathan Larson, giving him a perfect New York accent, as well as acting, singing and playing the piano and keyboard himself. Most of the songs are super cheesy, but that’s musical theater for you and Garfield performs the songs with the perfect cheese factor with song and in several scenes with dancing too. Most of the songs, besides being corny, don’t sound like a mature adult wrote them and since the movie is filled with those kind of songs, it does get a bit annoying and makes the film almost unenjoyable at times.
Alexandra Shipp is great as Susan Wilson, based on the real life Janet Charleston, Jonathan’s girlfriend, a former dancer. Robin de Jesus does a fine job as Michael, Jonathan’s best friend, based on the real life Matt O’ Grady, who left theater to work in advertising. Vanessa Hudgens is also great as Karessa Johnson, although she has very little dialogue and mostly sings and dances. Joshua Henry is very good as Roger Bart, Jonathan’s friend and performer in Superbia and Tick…Tick…Boom! Bradley Whitford is superb as Stephen Sondheim.
This film does a splendid job telling of Larson’s journey to become the next great musical theater sensation, even though it is a bit of a cheeseball at times. The songs, choreography, and acting are all eqaully fantastic. This is drama filled, song filled movie that will have you tapping your feet at times, getting angry at moments and also crying at times too. It teaches you to never give up on your dreams and that the great things you do will live on forever after you die.
There is song and dance, drama, heart and passion in this film that make it such an entertaining watch. There is fighting, sex, rejection, drinking, smoking, disease, cursing and selfishness that make this movie inappropriate for really young viewers. Teenagers and adults will enjoy this one much more. Tremendous film! 13+ 4/5