Movie Soundtrack Wednesday #22 – Tick, Tick… BOOM!

Words: Giulia Lombardo

Reality and music, music and reality. Netflix’s newest musical release ‘Tick, Tick… BOOM!’ narrates the life of one who lived in the name of music and of his own dream; the story of Jonathan David Larson, American composer, also author of the hit rock musical ‘Rent’, who died prematurely at the age of 35 in 1996, the night before ‘Rent’’s stage premiere. Lin-Manuel Miranda – with his directorial debut – creates an opera that is the adaptation of the Broadway musical (it was made into a less-successful motion picture in 2005), which is a fitting tribute to the creator who never heard his name recognised as one of the most interesting and important contemporary authors, winning three Tonys and the Pulitzer Prize for drama.

However ‘Tick, Tick… BOOM!’ does not tell the story of his creations, but of what it costs to realise one’s own vision of the world. Written as a solo work by Larson in 1990 and revamped for theatre by playwright-director David Auburn in 2001, the new film, exuberant and generous, takes a step back to the 90s at the bohemian apartment of Larson, located between Soho and Greenwich Village in New York, between dream and reality. A harsh reality – AIDS – is like a ticking bomb that marks one’s rhythm, the rhythm of a life slipping through your fingers. Andrew Garfield – who takes on the role of Larson – gives his all to embody genius and pain, fears and passion, and the essential concept of a man who has a dream and spends everything he has until the last day, despite everything, to get what he wants.

‘Tick, Tick… BOOM!’ is like a clock that first marks time “normally” and then suddenly loses the regular rhythm and explodes. The ticking bomb, the one inside Larson, is a metaphor for his life; Larson, however, lives under his own rhythm, the one marked by music, that really embraces his whole heart and existence. 

The film includes many of the songs featured in Larson’s musical, with 13 tracks that are part of the original soundtrack along with other extra tracks that belong to other works by Larson himself. It shows the life of the genius that is indissolubly tied between stage and reality, between musical and existence: Larson writes what he lives and what he lives is modulated with the music that he composed. The film unites all of this in a single flow, taking great care of the structure. Larson’s is a universe as painful and often as colourful, musical and alive; a world of overwhelming vitality that Miranda places at the centre of his film showing how many battles his protagonist fought to give life to his first work.

‘Tick, Tick… BOOM!’, besides being a great film, is essentially the construction of a dream realised but, unfortunately, interrupted too soon.