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Film Review: Andrew Garfield and Company Shine in “tick, tick…Boom!”

Written by: Adam Vaughn | November 19th, 2021

Film poster: ‘tick, tick…Boom!”

tick, tick…Boom! (Lin-Manuel Miranda, 2021) 3½ out of 4 stars.

Lin-Manuel Miranda sits in the director’s chair to bring an absolutely stunning biographical look at Jonathan Larson, the master behind the Broadway sensation Rent. A story of Larson’s most personal events about making the artist’s dream come true, tick, tick…Boom! brings amazing energy, a very powerful soundtrack, and a strong performance from Andrew Garfield (The Eyes of Tammy Faye). While it has some flaws, the movie absolutely succeeds in creating a huge rock-opera homage to the Broadway masterpiece for which Larson is remembered.

tick, tick…Boom! starts on the cusp of Larson’s 30th birthday and reflects on what he has accomplished as an artist so far … or not. Fearing failure, but in absolute love with writing music for the theater, Larson struggles to balance his creative life and surviving 1980s/1990s New York City. Even as the AIDS epidemic is still in full bloom, Larson pushes himself forward to showcase his first Broadway proposal for a science-fiction rock-opera, while slowly losing connections with his friends, as well as with the love of his life.

Andrew Garfield in TICK, TICK…BOOM! ©2021 Macall Polay/Netflix

The movie highlights all the people who impacted Larson as a writer and how the world around him impacted his storytelling. The musical score captures the right feeling, energy, and style to keep us invested, even if some of the song sequences seem to run a tad long. Still, tick, tick…Boom! has a certain awareness of the era it sets out to reflect, and the result is absolutely spectacular. Garfield as Lawson is an absolute charm, and with strong performances by Robin de Jesus (The Boys in the Band) and Alexandra Shipp (X-Men: Apocalypse), the overall result offers powerful emotional depth, reaching out to every artist who still fights for their dreams. Unfortunately, the full talents of Vanessa Hudgens (Bad Boys for Life) are never given their well-deserved screen time, but her voice certainly lifts up the songs. 

While tick, tick…Boom! often bombards the viewer with too much music, initially hardly stopping at all between melodies, it eventually chooses to explore themes and developments in society at the time. Fans of Rent will absolutely find much to love in this film, and I can certainly see any fan of the musical genre enjoying this original story featuring compelling characters and a wonderful soundtrack. While the film may not, eventually, prove so iconic as to stand the test of time, it is certainly a worthy experience.

Vanessa Hudgens in TICK, TICK…BOOM! ©2021 Macall Polay/Netflix

Adam Vaughn is a graduate of the Film & Moving Image program at Stevenson University, with a focus in Cinematography and Production. He also has a minor in Theater and Media Performance. Adam works as a freelance photographer and videographer, focusing his craft on creating compelling photographic and cinematic imagery. Adam is excited to join the Film Festival Today team and explore the world of cinema and visual arts.

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