With remarkable talent both in front of and behind the camera, Tick, tick… BOOM! is thoroughly engaging and high on entertainment.
Staring: Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesus, Joshua Henry, and Vanessa Hudgens
Directed by: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Tagline: How much time do we have to do something great?
It’s January 1990. In eight days, (real-life) playwright Jonathan Larson (portrayed here by Andrew Garfield) will turn 30, and he isn’t very excited about this development. Some of the greats had already accomplished so much by the time they hit the big three-o. All Jonathan has managed to amass, meanwhile, is a huge pile of rejection letters from producers, theatre companies, record labels, and studios. If his luck doesn’t turn, he will soon go from being “a writer who waits tables” to “a waiter with a hobby”.
Thus begins tick, tick… BOOM! the terrific big screen adaptation of Larson’s semi-autobiographical Off-Broadway musical which brilliantly captures the artistic struggle and dissects the creative process while keeping you both invested and entertained from start to finish.
As we meet Jon (whom we already know, will eventually receive posthumous acclaim for the phenomenal Rent), he is resting his hopes on Superbia, a dystopian rock musical he has spent the last eight years writing and rewriting. But a key musical number still eludes him, and, try as he might, the tune just won’t come to him.
Meanwhile, his childhood friend Michael (Robin de Jesus) has given up on his dream of being an actor and taken a job at an advertising company. His girlfriend Susan (Alexandra Shipp), a dancer whose career was derailed by an injury, is contemplating taking a teaching position in another city. And his HIV-positive friend Freddy (Ben Levi Ross) is struggling with health complications.
Jon’s personal and professional anxieties keep rearing their heads as he preps for the workshop of Superbia, hoping it will finally give him the big break he so yearns for. As the clock ticks, he must decide whether he should stick with his passion or give it up for a more stable life.
Scenes of the protagonist performing his rock monologue – accompanied by friends Roger (Joshua Henry) and Karessa (Vanessa Hudgens) – are juxtaposed with events from his life to create an unconventional structure, as Lin-Manuel Miranda (in his feature directorial debut) wonderfully transitions the source material from stage to screen, his own passion for theatre visible in every frame.
Wit and fervour are in copious supply here, as is a steady stream of contagious songs. It also helps immensely that Garfield is absolutely fantastic as the lead. The film serves as the perfect showcase for the actor’s talents, and he is deserving of any award season recognition that might come his way.
tick, tick… BOOM! is very likely to both impress and entertain fans of musicals (who will also appreciate the many cameos in the movie). The characters and themes are compelling enough to resonate with those who don’t necessarily have a deep interest in theatre. It is massively engaging, unexpectedly life-affirming, thoroughly entertaining, and very likely to leave you with a tune or two stuck in your head long after it’s over.
Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only
*** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection