Review: Keep an eye on Oscar nominee ‘tick, tick…BOOM!’

Movies often try to recreate the magic of Broadway.

Several years ago, “Birdman” won the Oscar for Best Picture for its memorable study of a show business ego trying to fit onto a stage. Back in the 1970s, Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz” offered a thrilling backstage tour of the musical theater. And, in the early 1950s, Fred Astaire made us want to sing and dance in his timeless Broadway tribute, “The Bandwagon.”

The movie version of “tick, tick…BOOM!” joins this prestigious collection.

With sure-handed direction by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Oscar-nominated editing from Myron Kerstein and Andrew Weisblum, the film radiates with confidence as it effortlessly makes us feel the thrills of what it takes to make a live performance sing. While based on Jonathan Larson’s stage show, the film wisely moves beyond the staginess of that piece. Instead, Miranda effectively makes the theatrical experience feel it is especially created for film. And the film serves as a tribute to this late composer’s lasting contribution to Broadway.

As portrayed by Andrew Garfield — in a performance well-deserving of an Oscar nomination for Best Actor — Larson brings as much energy as an entire Broadway show to his pursuit of a career in theater. It’s a tough road. He works in a diner, struggles with perfecting musical material he has worked on for several years, and finds himself frequently disappointing a girl who hopes for more than life with Larson currently provides. Because he loves theater. Musicals fill his days and his soul. And he continues to believe, even when the world seems to think otherwise, that he has something to say, and sing, that people may want to hear.

Garfield, who won a Tony for his exquisite performance in the revival of “Angels in America,” is perfect for this role. He brings limitless energy, exuberant passion and a child-like wonder to explore a business that can be brutal. As an actor, Garfield focuses more on how we react in the audience than what he emotes as a performer. This discipline enables him to bring authentic truth to moments that could, otherwise, come across as exaggerated. Through his convincing musical moments, as well, he makes us believe in a man who tests the resilience of most everyone he encounters.

Film Summary: “tick, tick…BOOM!”

Content: High. Lin Manuel-Miranda delivers a fascinating study of a driven man with a strong capability to drive those who him a bit crazy.

Entertainment: High. Led by Andrew Garfield, in an Oscar-worthy performance, the film inspires our love for musical theater.

Message: High. As the film captures what makes the stage experience so magical, as well as difficult, it reminds us of all the reasons live performance is essential.

Relevance: High. Any opportunity to examine how people navigate the layers of professional and personal ambition can be meaningful at the movies.

Opportunity for Dialogue: High. After you share this film with your older children, talk about what it takes to revisit and reconsider what family can mean.
 

Miranda, already the winner of a Tony, Grammy and Emmy, shines in his feature debut as a director. The visual sense that guided Miranda through “Hamilton” on Broadway fills every frame with a sense of urgency that makes the most of every moment. Plus, no surprise, he knows how to stage musical numbers, from the intense personal moments that spotlight Garfield and other performers to the magical moments that only movies can create, such as a Sunday brunch number that features a who’s who of Broadway performers.

If Broadway is your thing, or if musicals don’t make you sing, this tune-filled movie deserves a try. You may find yourself tapping your toes when you least expect. And, then, searching for a live production to experience just as soon as you are ready to return to a theater.

“tick, tick…BOOM!” runs 1 hour and 55 minutes and is Rated PG-13 for “some strong language, some suggestive material, and drug references.” The film is playing on Netflix.