Why Andrew Garfield is Basically the Musical Theatre Messiah

Why Andrew Garfield is Basically the Musical Theatre Messiah

The soundtrack to Netflix’s newest musical tick…tick…BOOM! has been all the rage on Tik Tok recently (ironically enough), prompting me to finally watch it. And while the soundtrack and Andrew Garfield’s performance as Jonathan Larson live up to the hype, the rest of the movie has its issues. 


tick…tick…BOOM! is a film adaptation of an off-Broadway musical of the same name. It is a semi-autobiographical musical following a week in the life of New York City playwright Jonathan Larson, played by Andrew Garfield. Jon is approaching his thirtieth birthday with little to show for it other than his near-finished musical, Superbia. Yet after eight years of work, Jon’s big break is right around the corner, with Superbia’s pivotal debut workshop just a week away. Over the course of a week, viewers witness Jon’s mounting frenzy to complete the musical in time, while simultaneously trying to balance his social life and looming financial debts before a fuse in his life explodes.  


Although most of the interest around tick…tick…BOOM! lies in its excellent cast and superior soundtrack, Alice Brooks’s great cinematography is worthy of recognition as well. Throughout the film, Brooks uses many creative angles and camera perspectives, such as the choice to make the first and last few shots of the film look as if they were recorded on an old camcorder. This makes it seem like the audience is watching something that Jon or his friends filmed and is a nice detail that further develops the movie’s 90s setting. 


However, it would be a crime to completely disregard the soundtrack of tick…tick…BOOM!, which is made even better by the musicians who perform it. The movie features many great musical performances from Jon’s girlfriend Susan (Alexandra Shipp) and Jon’s friends Michael (Robin de Jesus) and Roger (Joshua Henry). However, Andrew Garfield is simply an unstoppable force, leading the film with an incredibly dynamic performance. This is even more impressive considering he did not sing or play the piano before the movie was made. The emotion Garfield portrays in both spoken and sung scenes really showcases his talents as a performer. Whether it’s through the tear-jerking song “Louder Than Words” or through the spontaneous and energetic song “Boho Days,” audience members are sure to fall in love with Garfield’s rendition of Jonathan Larson.  


Unfortunately, not every song in the musical is as great as others, and some don’t seem necessary. For instance, some songs directly state what the audience just learned or could easily infer, significantly dragging the movie’s run time. One example is “Johnny Can’t Decide,” a song that takes place in the first act and has little to no emotional substance and simply summarizes everything the audience just saw. Furthermore, some of the musical performances simply do not meet the standard set by others in the movie, such as Vanessa Hudgens’s performance as Karessa. Apart from the song “Therapy” where it is stylistically appropriate,  Hudgens’ voice sounds too bright and overly edited, giving her voice a nasally and somewhat irritating quality.  


While I do believe that tick…tick…BOOM! is worth watching, I can also understand how some audience members may not feel as much of a connection to it as others. Though profound, the musical is not light-hearted and does not make for a particularly relaxing two hours. Furthermore, some of Jon’s fears may not resonate with viewers if they interpret his motivations throughout the film in a strictly literal context. At its core, tick…tick…BOOM! is about the fear of someone’s passion and purpose in life becoming their hobby over time. This is a sentiment that is very common in the performing arts industry and is not as applicable to other career fields. If audiences cannot empathize with that feeling, the movie may not have as much of an impact on them.  


Despite a few flaws, I think that tick…tick…BOOM! is a good film for those who can relate to the ‘starving artist’ mentality, or for those who simply adore Andrew Garfield as much as I do. I give this movie 3.5/5 stars overall, with the unwavering hope that Andrew Garfield sings in every movie he’s in from now on.