jack’s review published on Letterboxd:
Perhaps the best part of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s debut film is that he’s only in it for a few moments: maybe he’s beginning to realize that his presence in front of the camera is hardly as wonderful as he makes it out to be – judging by the brief moment in which I went “Oh, god...” and my girlfriend could only mutter “It’s him” and just like that, he evaporated off the screen, he probably desired his cook role to be a starring player. And it’s evident that in tick, tick... BOOM! that if Miranda couldn’t be the shining star in which we’re supposed to grow attached to, that the real star is still him: what is admirable about the film is that it’s clear that Miranda feels obligated in telling Larson’s story, in which his “Rent” was only recently dethroned by Miranda’s own “Hamilton” as the most revered original show.
What is painfully obvious, however, is that Miranda is so blinded by Larson’s own dedication to persevering with his art that it ends up looking horrible on Miranda’s part; in which a film, meant to be taken as a beautiful ode to someone who he admires, ends up revealing Miranda’s own narcissism – but seeing any project in which he partakes in allows that to come to fruition in a painfully obvious way. What I mean by this is that with something as attempted passionate as this work is, Miranda’s misty-eyed look at Larson and choosing to highlight his problems as something admirable is a direct response on Miranda’s part in comparing his own ambition with Larson’s, when we clearly see that Larson, in this film, uses his self-titled genius as a sort of threat against other people who stand in his way: while Miranda wipes a tear from his eye while showing Larson listen to someone parade about his genius, I can’t help but feel incredibly repulsed.
Speaking of which, the scene I’m referring to is perhaps the most disgusting and offensive scene in the entire film, maybe even out of every project Lin-Manuel Miranda has stuck his fingers into: Michael, Jonathan’s best friend, after telling him he tested positive for HIV, proceeds to comfort his friend by telling him how great he is – obviously alluding to the future project that Larson’s name would forever be attached to – and that there’s going to be no one quite like Jonathan Larson. How are we supposed to sympathize with Larson, who has been portrayed as this struggling artist with a sense of arrogance that his genius is one to be taken seriously and if it’s not, it’s detrimental to the state of things, when Miranda frames this scene – a really upsetting and heartbreaking realization that someone’s life will be quickly cut short – as a praise for Larson when it should’ve humbled him into realizing there’s more at stake in the world.
The more I think about tick, tick... BOOM!, the more I absolutely hate it; Miranda proves that, once again, his finest cinematic contribution was Moana and should probably reconsider the fact that he’s not as terrific as he’d like to be. There are moments in this that do fascinate me – the fact that the film is structured around Larson’s attempt at selling his first show, while being told through his second, with his last lingering in the future is pretty interesting – but every time I think about something I did enjoy, there’s about five other thing that I didn’t. Andrew Garfield’s performance is nothing to write home about – and I weep knowing that he’ll be nominated for this when there’s probably someone else deserving of this year and the fact that his performance in Silence remains lost in time – and ultimately, neither is this, unless you weren't convinced of Miranda's awfulness by now.