Review: tick, tick... BOOM! (12A) - Can Love Truly Exist In a Place of Fear and Anxiety?

Lin-Manuel Miranda stuns with a remarkable directorial debut that can sometimes feel too ambitious for its own good.

Garvit Hora
23rd December 2021
Credit: IMDb
Following the irony-filled story of Jonathan Larson (Andrew Garfield), tick tick... BOOM! details his struggles to get his musical Superbia off the ground in 1990 New York. He juggles these artistic endeavours while attempting to make balance with finances, friendships, and romantic love.
Andrew Garfield as Jonathan Larson, Credit: IMDb

As the title suggests, suspense is built across much of the film’s runtime. Amidst its anxiety, which is accentuated by Miranda’s heavy-handed camerawork, is a persistently touching narrative. Alice Brooks’ highly expressive cinematography and Alex DiGerlando’s meticulous set design eases viewers into the dichotomies at the core of the film – fear/love, and dreams/reality. Larson’s description of Superbia being in ‘a world where emotion has been outlawed’ allows viewers to read tick, tick… BOOM! as a commentary on the misery of the realities of capitalism.

The musical numbers throughout the film are a celebration of the idea of feeling. This mood is encapsulated by the appropriately titled Therapy, sandwiching the film, which sings viewers through the entanglement of thoughts and emotions. The destitution we see Andrew Garfield amongst showcases the light with which he conducts every song and scene. Together, with Garfield’s passionate and confident vocals across the film, supported by the likes of Robin de Jesus, Alexandra Shipp, Vanessa Hudgens, and more, tick, tick… BOOM! counters the emotional depravity and rigidity we can find ourselves subjected to at the hands of capitalism. Rated 12A, the film very innocently introduces us to these grand themes.

Credit: IMDb

But this same conceptual diversity also acts as the film's fatal flaw. While successfully provoking high emotional fluctuation with credit to some of the anthemic songs, Miranda’s direction coupled with the editing can often make the film more scattered than I feel it may intend to. Though it was largely faithful to Larson’s merciless life, in its biographical adaptation, the film’s blows seemed relentless, nearing on futile. Despite the casting and performances being amazing, this clash between stage- and screen-acting was sometimes unpleasant and clunky. The generously naturalistic scenes between the numbers are occasionally unrealised, making the film seem collage-like at times.

I left the film with delusional optimism

As a musical, I found myself loving the film’s lean towards clichés, however unnaturalistic they may have seemed. I left the film with delusional optimism in my aspirations and heightened compassion for my peers. The two hours, however volatile, left me with enough jingles and tunes to stay alight for weeks.

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