Tick … Tick … Boom! has the potential of winning over even the biggest of skeptics with the coldest of hearts. Not a fan of musicals? That’s okay because there’s more to this film than any of its great numbers. It chronicles the early days of Johnathan Larson’s career as he attempts to write the great American musical while navigating life, friendships, and love. Andrew Garfield delivers the best of his career in the title role as he comes to grips with almost turning 30 without having his “big break.” In his mind, if Sondheim and others had their first hit in his 20’s, he should too.
Miranda’s structure for the film (a play within a play) and allowing Larson to be the narrator of his own story worked exceptionally well. The film thrives when it takes its most significant creative swings (songs like Sunday) and focuses on Larson’s interpersonal relationships with Susan (Alexandra Shipp) and Michael (Robin de Jesús). Shipp’s portrayal of Larson’s girlfriend Susan added another layer of emotional conflict and inner turmoil to the film. Johnathan realizes that at his age, he should be settled down for the most part (he even alludes to it in the song Bohemia). Can you strive for your dreams and find love?
Much of Larson’s angst centers on how many of his friends are moving on, yet he’s still where he was 8 years ago. Michael (Robin de Jesús) has traded his dream of acting for a high-paying advertising job in the city. This news is tough for Johnathan to process. Robin de Jesús and Andrew Garfield have some of the best scenes in the film. Their relationship represents a large part of the film’s emotional core.
Had Miranda just attempted to recreate the Tick … Tick … Boom! we saw on the stage; this film would have fallen flat. His willingness to dive deeper into who Larson was and not what he created allowed Garfield to soar in the movie. A career-defining performance and the emotional resonance of the source material have resulted in one of the best releases this year. It’s out in theaters now and on Netflix next Friday. Do not miss it!