TICK, TICK…BOOM! (2021) – My rating: 9.5/10

A young man sits at a piano with a spotlight shining on him

Tick, Tick… Boom! (also stylized as tick, tick… BOOM!) is a biographical musical drama directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda in his feature directorial debut. Written by Steven Levenson, it is based on the stage musical of the same name by Jonathan Larson. Tick, Tick… Boom! is a semi-autobiographical story about Larson’s writing a musical to enter the industry. I didn’t know what to expect of this movie, after seeing it, all I can say is WOW!  It was fabulous!  I think Tick, Tick… Boom! deserved a Best Picture nod in addition to the other Oscar nominations it received.

In 1992, Jonathan Larson (Andrew Garfield) performs his rock monologue Tick, Tick… Boom! at New York Theatre Workshop, accompanied by friends Roger Bart (Joshua Henry) and Karessa Johnson (Vanessa Hudgens). He describes an incessant ticking noise he hears in his head and begins to tell his story. An unseen narrator explains the film is the true story of Jonathan Larson, “except for the parts Jonathan made up.”


In early 1990, Jonathan juggles work at the Moondance Diner in SoHo while he prepares for a workshop of his musical and passion project called Superbia. Jonathan feels pressure to be successful before he turns 30, with his birthday just over a week away, he sees the workshop as his last chance at success. He has a party at home with friends, including his former roommate Michael (Robin de Jesús), his girlfriend Susan (Alexandra Shipp), and fellow waiters Freddy (Ben Levi Ross) and Carolyn (MJ Rodriguez). Susan alerts Jonathan to a teaching job at Jacob’s Pillow and asks him to check it out.

Michael, who previously left the theater for a lucrative advertising career, sees Susan’s offer as an opportunity for Jonathan to consider a serious future and invites Jonathan to join an advertising focus group at his company. Jonathan’s producer Ira Weitzman (Jonathan Marc Sherman) asks him to write a new song for Superbia because the story needs it. Jonathan realizes that he was told this before by his idol, Stephen Sondheim some years ago, but he wasn’t able to come up with anything. Now he only has a week to add a new song he hasn’t written. Jonathan finds himself unable to concentrate on preparing for the workshop as he thinks about Michael and Susan’s offers. His anxieties are only compounded when he learns from Carolyn that Freddy, who is HIV-positive, has been hospitalized.

Susan, frustrated by Jonathan’s indecisiveness and obsession with his career, breaks up with him, she feels as though he can only think of his workshop. To get money to hire a full band for the workshop, Jonathan attends the advertising focus group. However, he deliberately sabotages it, which angers Michael, who feels Jonathan is wasting the privilege to have a life with the person he loves on a financially unstable theater career, something Michael cannot do as a gay man in the AIDS crisis. After receiving an encouraging call from his agent Rosa Stevens (Judith Light), Jonathan tries to write the new song the night before the workshop but his electricity gets cut off. He heads to a swimming pool to vent his frustrations over the workshop and his personal life, before finally coming up with the new song.

At the workshop are friends, family, and industry professionals, including Sondheim. Jonathan receives praise but no offers to produce Superbia. Rosa encourages him to continue writing, telling him that rejection is the life of a Broadway writer. Discouraged, Jonathan begs Michael for a corporate job, but Michael, having changed his mind after seeing the workshop, urges Jonathan to continue in musical theater, revealing he is HIV-positive. Realizing that his career obsession has cost him Susan and harmed his friendship with Michael, Jonathan wanders through New York before finding himself at the Delacorte Theater. He finds a piano and reflects on his friendship with Michael and the sacrifices he must make for his career. He and Michael reconcile their friendship.

Tick, Tick… Boom! is based on a true story and does not really end well.  This was one of the best musicals I’ve seen in a long time.  I absolutely loved it.  Andrew Garfield was brilliant and the musical was very entertaining.  The singing and dancing were outstanding, the songs were catchy and fun.  FYI:  Jonathan Larson wrote “RENT“.  I feel as though Tick, Tick… Boom! deserved Best Picture, and Best Director nod.  On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 88% based on 200 reviews with an average rating of 7.6/10. The website’s critical consensus reads, “Tick, Tick… Boom!” makes musical magic out of a story focused on the creative process—an impressive feat for debuting director Lin-Manuel Miranda.” Tick, Tick… Boom! was nominated at the 79th Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture and Andrew Garfield won for Best Actor, in the Motion Picture Musical or Comedy category! Tick, Tick… Boom! is streaming on Netflix — Check It Out!

[TICK, TICK… BOOM! is Oscar-nominated at the 94th Academy Awards for BEST: Actor, and Film Editing — Totaling 2 Oscar Nominations]


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