Spider-Man takes on a Netflix musical

‘Tick, Tick…Boom!’ still sparking conversation after its November release to the streaming platform



Lin-Manuel MIranda, left, and Andrew Garfield, right, appear on stage together at “Tick, Tick…Boom!” premiere.

Lia Eberlein and Charlize Harding

In “Tick, Tick … Boom!” Andrew Garfield steals the show in the movie-musical adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s life.  

Larson was the writer of “Rent,” a Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical. The night before the show’s opening in New York, he died of an aortic aneurysm.  

Lin Manuel Miranda, writer and star of the popular Broadway musical “Hamilton,” directed the film. His motive in his directive role was to share the story of Larson’s life, which is plainly stated in the first few minutes of the film.  

The title of “Tick, Tick … Boom!” comes from the autobiographical solo piece written and performed by Larson alone. And although the film released in November of last year, it has been receiving much attention on social media lately, particularly TikTok.  

Vocal numbers including “30/90” show off Garfield’s singing skills as well as his passionate mirroring of Larson’s performance style. When being interviewed about the film, Garfield has admitted multiple times that he spent a year working with vocal coaches.  

Garfield also learned how to play piano for the role.  

While delivering a masterful performance, Garfield is also accumulating nominations and awards along the way for his work on “Tick, Tick … Boom!”  

“Tick, Tick … Boom!” provides a different take on perspective throughout Garfield’s portrayal of Larson’s life prior to major success with “Rent.” An initial standout in the cinematography is the use of a video camera, giving the feeling of a nostalgic at-home recording. 

Further, the use of lighting and color plays into the narrative as well. Prosperous, positive times are shown in bright light and distinct colors that stand out while monotonous, troubling scenes are darker with more grayscale tones being prominent in the frame.   

As mentioned throughout the movie musical, the importance of perspective is evident. The detailed descriptions both spoken and portrayed visually give insight to specifics of Larson’s life — specifically the meanings of the songs performed.  

The intermittent breaks between musical numbers are accompanied with portrayals of everyday experiences for Larson, such as conversations with friends, strolling through the library and the little things which inspire the artist within him. He even writes a song about sugar when working his job at a diner. 

Vanessa Hudgens plays Karessa Johnson, who was a talented singer and one of Larson’s longtime friends. Johnson would often accompany Larson on his musical endeavors.  

“Therapy,” a duet by Garfield and Hudgens, has the two going back and forth regarding the relationship of Larson and his girlfriend Susan Wilson. The two talk over one another throughout the song, mimicking an argument. 

This portrayal of Larson’s story shows that even the seemingly negative things in life can allow your mind to get creative with how you cope.  

Larson’s story expresses one feeling extremely clear: pure passion. For love, for music, for the yearning of success on any scale.  

We see Larson in his small New York City apartment, barely making ends meet at this time in his life. Even with that, he never let his dream go. 

Considering the focus of the film and the angle of storytelling, it is refreshing to watch an “ordinary” story of someone striving for success. Just like you and I, Larson had his fair share of financial struggles and expressions of doubt, among other hindering factors that impact our careers and lives overall.  

It is at this realization that “Tick, Tick … Boom!” offers a sort of realism to life. Not all movies or musicals depict a realistic account of one having a perfect, prosperous life. 

This is why the story of Jonathan Larson in “Tick, Tick … Boom!” is so important. He embodies the pure drive that allows the ordinary to become extraordinary. 

“Tick, Tick … Boom!” is streaming on Netflix.