The biggest weakness is the songs and for similar, but not, reasons I had with In The Heights. The best part of the film is the music; the worst is the lyrics. The music is incredible, and Larson is a genius. He was far ahead of his time, and it is easy to see why he had future success with Rent. The lyrics are s**t. Poetic, but wordy, trying to say something, but through incomplete thoughts. This shouldn’t be a spoiler, but Superbia never went anywhere, and when you see it, you’ll know why.
The music and arrangements are powerful and indicative of Larson’s brilliant composing. But the lyrics are about a dystopian future with robots and are lousy, lyrically speaking. The problem is that tick, tick… Boom! features songs Larson wrote before Rent. Thus, the entire story is intentionally based on inferior music.
Enough ranting, let’s talk about why it’s worth seeing. First, I said it upfront, but damn… Andrew Garfield can sing. He’s not just an actor who can sing (e.g., Emma Watson); he could star in a Broadway musical. The fact that he’s never done anything musical is incredible.
“…the music conveys not just emotion but truly inspiring and uplifting feelings.”
Second is the music, most of which was written by Larson. While the lyrics suck, the music conveys not just emotion but truly inspiring and uplifting feelings. What I like about the composition is seeing/hearing the evolution of an artist. Some of the songs serve as inspiration for what would ultimately be Rent. Plus, it’s not hard to feel good after each tune.
Lastly, tick, tick… Boom! is the quintessential tale of the struggling artist. Larson was so dedicated to his art that he gave up everything necessary in life to pursue his passion. This pursuit comes with a mixed bag as everyone needs food, shelter, and love, but Larson would be the last one to resist the urge to “get a real job.” I love the fact that this is a story of failure and hope.
Honestly, I shouldn’t have liked this, but I did. tick, tick… Boom! violates a lot of my “rules” for good cinema. Yes, the songs are mediocre, and the story bounces from Larson’s one-person show to flashbacks to dream sequences. As they say, “rules are meant to be broken.” Art is art, and great art knows the rules so intimately, it knows where and when to break them. In this case, the artist is director Lin-Manuel Mirada and writer Steven Levinson. Their love and passion for Larson and Broadway oozes all over every second of this production.
Let’s be real. tick, tick… Boom! is a little too inside baseball for anyone not living in New York, but its story of a struggling artist is spot on. Plus, Andrew Garfield is a revelation as a singer, and the music (sans lyrics) is inspiring. That’s enough for me to recommend. In fact, I’m going to see it again.
tick, tick… Boom! screened at the 2021 AFI Fest.
"…Andrew Garfield is a revelation as a singer..."