REVIEW: ‘Tick, Tick… Boom’ is an enjoyable, touching tribute

The legacy of late composer Jonathan Larson is honored in this new Netflix feature, based on his own autobiographical musical, “Tick, Tick… Boom.”

Andrew Garfield stars as Larson in the movie, directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The film has a framing device of Larson of performing “Tick, Tick… Boom” as a one man show, where he tells the story of himself in 1990, struggling to get a new production off the ground.

That production is “Superbia,” and the story Larson tells includes details about how he worked at a small diner, his strained relationships because of his focus on his work and how he grieved for friends he lost to the AIDS epidemic.

“Tick, Tick” is a deeply intimate film, hyper-focused on Larson. The picture showcases how he is as a friend, lover, composer and performer, allowing a full portrait to be painted of the figure over the runtime.

The result is a tasteful, loving tribute to the man, capturing his energy and craft. Those who maybe haven’t seen the original version of “Tick, Tick… Boom,” but have watched “Rent,” will find themselves in familiar territory.

It’s clear the musical performances featured throughout this film started from Larson’s blueprints. As a result, one can have a new appreciation for him, on top of being moved by his music.

The movie sucks an audience in right from the start, too. The opening song “30/90” is a fantastic, relatable piece of music that completely sets the stage for what Larson is going through in the film.

Courtesy Netflix.

Where “Boom” falters is in some of the moments between the film’s musical sequences. While Lin-Manuel Miranda does have an eye for musical scenes, the fact that this is his directorial debut becomes apparent in a few of the dramatic moments throughout the feature.

There are a few confrontational moments where people close to Larson approach him about his near-obsessive levels of devotion to his work. Some of these scenes turn out rather flat, with fleeting tension and conventional writing.

The latter aspect was penned by writer Steven Levenson, who has limited experience in feature film scripts. While the writing in “Tick” never feels stiff, it doesn’t elevate the film either.

What does elevate the movie is Garfield’s performance. The actor is on fire in this movie, bringing every ounce of energy to the role to bring Larson to life and display the composer’s full personality.

For nearly half the film, Garfield is portraying Larson performing and talking directly to a theater audience, and in a sense, to the viewer watching at home, too. He carries that load in stride, offering audiences a chance to relate to who Larson really was on a closer level.

“Tick, Tick… Boom’s” narrative moments could have been stronger, but even with some issues, the film remains entertaining and heartfelt. 3.75 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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