“The fuse has been lit. The clock counts down the seconds as the flame gets closer, and closer, and closer until…all at once…”
Andrew Garfield has had a hold on my heart since his time playing The Amazing Spider-Man. And after seeing his latest role as Jonathon Larson, the playwright behind the Broadway musical hit “Rent,” in Netflix’s new “tick, tick…BOOM!” I have officially fallen in love with Broadway musicals. Now, mind you, I have lived in New York for months before, and I’ve never once thought about going to a Broadway show. But something about this one just clicked with me. The movie is an adaptation of Larson’s autobiographical musical. It’s a story about the eternal struggle with time and the immense pressure that we feel from society as we contemplate the daunting question — what do we want to do with our lives?
As college kids, we contemplate this question almost on a daily basis. Did I choose the right major? What am I really good at in life? We often lose sight of what makes us happy in pursuit of our degrees and are constantly haunted by a fear of failure in our respective fields. Garfield brilliantly and refreshingly enacts the story of a dreamer —a person who did not allow others to dictate his purpose, and a person who did not let failure prevent his visions from coming to life.
Larson, played with kinetic desperation by Andrew Garfield, is struggling to finish a dystopian rock musical that’s been eight years in the making. Cleverly, the title of the film refers to the pressure he feels internally and externally from surrounding friends who he accuses of being sellouts to the corporate world, and a girlfriend who eventually leaves him in pursuit of a more stable life. As Larson is on the brink of turning 30, his writer’s block keeps getting the best of him, rendering him unable to finish his first breakout hit and running out of time to make it in show business. However, even as we see him eventually overcome his block, eight years worth of work still wasn’t enough to earn him a spot amongst Broadway’s biggest playwrights.
Here, we see Larson at the peak of his desperation, contemplating compromising by “selling out to the corporate world” like his friends. This is when, in my opinion, the biggest insight of this whole movie is revealed to the audience. Larson writes again. And again. And as soon as Larson starts writing about what he knows, from his autobiography in “tick, tick…BOOM!” to stories from his experience living in Lower Manhattan’s East Village under the shadow of HIV/AIDS displayed in the 12 year running Broadway musical “Rent,” he experiences true success. Of course, the irony of life manifests itself in his death on the opening night of his most successful hit. Nevertheless, his legend lives on to this day and forward.
My message to those of us who are still trying to figure out their true place in life is to pursue what you know you want to do instead of what society tells you to pursue, and to do so tirelessly and with a blatant disregard to the ticking of time. Because “tick, tick…BOOM!” shows us that the true beauty of pursuing one’s passion in life does not necessarily lie in the product of one’s creation nor the timing of it, but rather in the perseverance of creating despite a lack of constant appreciation and success. To quote Larson’s agent after his first musical’s failure — “You write another one, and then another one, and you keep throwing them at the wall hoping against hope that one sticks.” And eventually, one does. One has to.