Austin Burke’s review published on Letterboxd:
On the cusp of his 30th birthday, a promising young theater composer navigates love, friendship and the pressures of life as an artist in New York City.
Andrew Garfield is an acting force, and it is hard to imagine anyone else playing this role because of how in-tune (pun game string) he is with his character’s emotional state. Tick Tick Boom tells the story of Jonathan Larson, and how he managed to find success through sheer willpower and determination. The film also makes it clear where its focus will be, as Lin-Manuel Miranda is less concerned about exploring these successes and more eager to tell the stressful story behind how it all came to be. The story (eventually) seamlessly comes together to make for one of the more emotional third acts of the year, and it is all brought home by what Garfield is able to do as he lays his heart out there for everyone. He not only nails the range needed for Larson, but the man can bring the house down with his voice. I had no clue he would sound this good, and his voice carried almost every song to success.
I will admit that I wasn’t blown away by the musical numbers themselves. There is a song or two that will stick with me for a long time, but a lot of this is because of the lyrics and performances. Certain songs could have used better staging, more intriguing choreography, more color, and the film itself isn’t quite the visual spectacle that I expected. I would absolutely consider it to be a well shot film, but it never went beyond that. All of this being said, this is a personal story, so I understand why everything feels a bit more understated. The other drawback some will have is how this story is weaving together, as he is speaking about his life on stage for certain portions, and then the film cuts to and from those moments. What works so well about this is the idea of showing us the creativity while focusing on this creative person. It’s almost like viewers are being shown his way of taking this all in.
The grueling process of trying to come up with your best work is one that so many can relate to, especially if you are in the world of movies or theater. The way this film captures that mindset but also beautifully plays out from an artistic point of view is special. It is a distinct film that separates itself from others because of the way Lin-Manuel Miranda conveys it to us, and with that, he absolutely impresses with his first film. Again, the cinematography and look of the film is rock solid, but it doesn’t quite have that edge over other musicals as of late. What Tick Tick Boom has is a heart on display that hits just as hard as any other film this year. Larson’s story and journey is one I never knew I needed, and while I am familiar with his work, what went into that is just as important as the results themselves. It almost feels like a love letter from this cast and crew, and that is something many will take from this one. Tick Tick Boom is a great time, and believe it will be enough to get Garfield a well-deserved Oscar nomination.
🔙Home Sweet Home Alone