‘tick, tick…BOOM!’ is an awe-inspiring film for everyone


“tick, tick Boom!” movie poster

“The sound you are hearing is not a technical problem. It is not a musical cue. It is not a joke. It is the sound of one man’s mounting anxiety. I … am that man…I keep hearing those tick-ticks. And sometimes, after a couple of them, I’ll hear something else – a distant BOOM, like a bomb has gone off not too far away and the next one might be closer and I’d better look out. Tick…Tick….BOOM!”

These are the opening lines of Jonathan Larson’s “tick…tick…BOOM!” the name of a solo act by Larson performed by himself in 1990. It is also a film of the same name directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, starring Andrew Garfield, Vanessa Hudgens and Joshua Henry released in 2021.

Larson was an American composer, lyricist and playwright who wrote musicals that introduced the true rock sound to the musical theater scene and raised awareness towards social issues like homosexuaity and addiction. He wrote “Rent,” the iconic rock musical for which he received a posthumous Pulitzer Prize and “tick…tick…BOOM!” Larson died the day of the first off-Broadway preview of “Rent” due to undiagnosed Marfan’s Syndrome.

“tick…tick…BOOM!” is a semi-autobiographical film and musical about Larson and his journey in trying to write a rock sci-fi musical that will break through into the musical theater scene. He does this while balancing relationships with his best friend, Michael (Robin de Jesús), and his girlfriend Susan (Alexandra Shipp), in the midst of his own mid-life crisis about turning 30.

The film weaves Larson’s original solo act and the story together. While the majority of the movie takes place in the actual story, it occasionally cuts to Larson explaining his own story within the frame of his solo act with the help of his backup singers and stand-ins for Susan and Michael, Karessa (Vanessa Hudgens) and Roger (Joshua Henry).

I know. It seems complicated and it is certainly hard to explain, but believe me, you will understand once you watch it. And this brings me to my next point: WATCH THIS FILM! Undoubtedly, it is in my top five favorite movies of all time. I don’t say that lightly either. It’s got everything going for it.

Let’s start with Lin-Manuel Miranda. Is there anything this man cannot do? He has openly stated that Larson was a huge inspiration for him when writing his two hit musicals, “In the Heights” and “Hamilton.” His love for the source material is blatantly obvious as he expertly translated the unique musical to the screen.

The music is insanely good. The unique sound of Larson’s music comes through extremely well. In particular, “30/90,” “Johnny Can’t Decide,” “Why,” and “Louder Than Words” are standouts.

On top of that, all the actors delivered stellar performances. Hudgens and Henry were incredible in acting as the supports for Larson’s story in the solo act portions of the film.

Alexandra Shipp’s chemistry with Garfield came through, particularly during the song “Therapy.” Robin de Jesús wasn’t a standout until about halfway through the film. In the interest of limiting spoilers, I won’t elaborate on the particular scene but it is filled with heart-wrenching dialogue and Garfield builds off of it splendidly.

Garfield, however as he always does, delivered the best performance of the film. Watching Larson’s original solo act in comparison to Garfield’s interpretation of it reveals an uncanny resemblance. Every mannerism felt refined to match Larson’s own mannerisms to a tee. In short, “tick…tick…BOOM!” solidified Garfield as one of my favorite actors in the industry at the moment.

The aspect of the movie that truly places it in my top-five, however, is its message. “tick…tick…BOOM!” is all about time, specifically about how we use it. How do we maximize our utility with the little time we have? The title itself, “tick…tick…BOOM!”, wrestles with the concept of time ticking away. For me, one particular scene where Larson is scrambling in trying to figure out how to budget his time was extremely relatable.

So…the age-old question arrives again: should you watch?

I think you know what my answer is.

All I ask is to sit back and please just watch this film. Not only is it just an all-around amazing film, but it is moving and inspiring for any person who feels like they don’t have enough time to achieve their dreams.

Grade: A+