Andrew Garfield stars in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tribute to Broadway director, Jonathan Larson, who was responsible for the hit musical Rent. Tick, Tick … BOOM! adapts his autobiography, documenting the highs and lows during his journey through writing his first musical, Superbia.
It’s fair to say that approaching your 30th birthday can be a bag of mixed emotions as you evaluate your life and mistakenly focus on all the things you wanted to achieve by this milestone. This is a theme running throughout the movie as Larson constantly seems anxious about his birthday whilst comparing where other people seem to be at this point. He feels a pressure to have success before all doors are closed to him and in trying to achieve his goals, begins to push those closest to him away. His relationship with girlfriend, Susan (Alexandra Shipp) begins to unravel as she too is at a turning point in her life and he fails to notice that his best friend, Michael (Robin de Jesus) is going through personal crisis. There’s a sub plot with Michael which adds a huge amount of grounding and heart to the movie.
In musical movies like this, we are used to a big, happy ending but that doesn’t happen here. The futuristic Superbia isn’t received as Larson had hoped and he’s advised to go back to the drawing board, spurred on with a glimmer of hope from composer, Stephen Sondheim. He rediscovers an old musical he had begun called Rent and as they say, the rest his history. It’s devastating to know though that Larson never got to experience his work on Broadway as he suffered aortic failure at the age of 35, just before it’s opening night.
There are many superb musical numbers during the movie which are cleverly used to narrate the story through Larson’s own voice. ‘Sunday’ is quite the spectacle as it features cameos from many Broadway legends and ‘Come To Your Senses’ is a powerful ballad (which I have found myself listening to on repeat since) used in Superbia, expressing his relationship dilemmas with Susan. Vanessa Hudgens plays one of Larson’s singers, Karessa and is so impressive even just in the background.
Andrew Garfield gives a magnificent performance as Jonathan Larson. He’s completely compelling and conveys every inch of emotion with truth and so much depth, proving once again that his acting skills go way further than web slinging. His musicality is silky and it just felt such a joy to watch him.
Tick, tick … BOOM! is heartbreaking and uplifting all at the same time and despite its crushing ending, inspires self belief. This is definitely of my favourite movies of the year!