Lin-Manuel Miranda brings ‘Rent’ composer Jonathan Larson back to life with new musical biopic, ‘Tick Tick…Boom!’

By J1 reporter Nina McMullen

5/5 stars

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Tick Tick…Boom!” completely rocked both the theater and film world alike. This masterpiece showcases Andrew Garfield in a breakout singing debut that covers the tragic story of Broadway writer, Jonathan Larson. The score is a mix of originally scoring from Larson’s “Tick Tick…Boom!” musical, which was directly inspired by his own life, and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s own lyrical work.  

Larson, most notably accredited for writing and composing “Rent,” died suddenly before ever seeing the success his labor of love would become. “Tick Tick…Boom!” follows the journey of Larson’s struggle to find his footing in the Broadway industry while he juggles the AIDS epidemic that has been silently making its way into many of his close friends. (This would later become his inspiration for writing “Rent”)

The masterful cinematography throughout the film highlights Broadway MVP’s such as Miranda himself (as a kitchen cook working in the iconic “Moon Dance Diner”) and Chita Rivera. It also gives subtle nods to the real life friends of Larson as it cameos his nextdoor neighbors, Michelle and Gay, who are both featured in the song “Boho days.”

As for Garfield, this was an absolute home run for the actor. After coming off a short work hiatus, 2021 has been an absolute Oscar grab for him. He emotes the epic ups and downs of the crushingly honest musical industry in a relatable and close-to-home way. Of course, we all knew Andrew Garfield was a good actor, but almost no one knew of his singing abilities. Garfield easily switches between the fast pace of a song like “Therapy” or “Boho days” to the slow and emotional tones of “Why.” To listen to more of Garfield’s singing, you can find the “Tick Tick…Boom!” soundtrack on any music streaming service. 

Not only did Andrew Garfield rock the big screen with this one, actors such as Robin de Jesus, Alexandra Shipp, Joshua Henry and Vanessa Hudgens. Specifically Alexandra Shipp, this was her film debut, with her area of expertise being on stage. Robin de Jesus, playing the lovable best friend to Larson, Michael, absolutely killed it. His portrayal of that life-long connection Michael and Jonathan had was seamless and incredibly believable. The other actors bring their amazing vocals to the soundtrack and elevate the already outstanding score.

The structure of the movie is easy to follow and brings you in emotionally whether you want it to or not. Some hangups people have about the ending of the film is that it ends abruptly and doesn’t give you a chance to grieve Larson’s death. This is all true, but in a way, it was brilliant. Jonathon Larson died the day “Rent” was scheduled to debut on Broadway. Feels abrupt, doesn’t it? The cast of “Rent” wasn’t given time to grieve. They got out there and performed. The ending of a black screen breaking the news of Larson’s untimely passing is absolutely genius in my opinion.

Finally, some housekeeping things about the film. The total runtime is 1hr 55m which feels like the perfect length when watching. There’s never a spot when you feel bored or tired of the story. You are often feeling the same emotions being portrayed on screen. As Larson gets told “no” again from Broadway higher-ups, you feel frustrated right along with him. To watch this Netflix original film, you do need a Netflix subscription. However, even if you don’t have one, I highly recommend finding a friend who does or even starting a free trial to see this movie. It is absolutely worth all the accolades it is receiving and the entire cast and crew gets many many applause from me. Overall, this film gets 5/5 stars from me. 

“Tick Tick…Boom!” official movie poster

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