Lin-Manuel Miranda is a household name when it comes to stellar musicals like Hamilton and In the Heights, so when it came to adapting Jonathan Larson’s rock monologue Tick, Tick… BOOM!, it was fitting that Miranda be the one to helm it. After all, Larson’s fingerprints are all over Miranda’s life, as he grew up watching Larson’s smash hit Rent and was influenced by it.
Tick, Tick… BOOM!, which came before he went on to make Rent, is a semi-autobiographical piece on Larson’s struggle to find success as a New York composer. This grappling urge to make it is further heightened as he’s on the cusp of his 30th birthday and hasn’t come close to achieving anything. His friends are getting jobs (and paying taxes) – he doesn’t want to settle for a boring “adult job” in advertising. He works at a diner during the day and has piles of unpaid bills, and is struggling in his relationship with his girlfriend Susan (Alexandra Shipp).
Tick, Tick… BOOM! is a beautiful celebration of Larson’s life while also mourning the loss of such talent. He died at 35 of an aortic failure, hours before the off-Broadway debut of Rent. His tragic untimely death certainly haunts the film, making his plight to make a name for himself all the more ominous as the clock ticks away.
Andrew Garfield is exceptional in this film. Having never done a musical before, he packs a punch, whether it’s the vocal notes or capturing Larson’s legacy with his pure earnestness. He channels the desperation of a 30-year-old trying to find success against a ticking clock – a reality that writers, artists and anyone really will identify with. Garfield brings a relatability factor and his casting was a brilliant choice.
Miranda’s film is well-crafted and musical theatre fans will adore every single song – they’re catchy, entertaining and some even heartwarming. The last number “action speaks louder than words” might just make you ugly cry. Even if you’re not a musical theatre fan, movie geeks like myself will appreciate and enjoy the performances put together.
Even Vanessa Hudgens and Alexandra Shipp shine through with their vocals, giving you the chills. They are extremely gifted actors and singers who are utilized quite well, even though the focus is largely on Garfield. There are some unexpected surprise cameos and performances that were simply a joy to watch on screen.
This film might just put Miranda in the running for an Oscar, and one step closer to achieving the celebrated EGOT status, the highest of all accolades earned by only 16 people thus far.