Elias’s review published on Letterboxd:
that Sunday brunch scene with all of the Broadway guest stars was just as cringe as the Free Guy reference-filled final battle, change my mind
I'll get the positives out of the way, since people will probably rave and rant about how good this is. Andrew Garfield is the shining star by far, his boyishness bringing such a charismatic and believable presence to this late-20s bohemian artist who thinks they're destined to be the next great young mind. There were several scenes where I found myself lost in his performance - he takes it to a 10 and never leaves it, much to the benefit of the audience. The supporting cast was also well-acted, although no one performance really stands out (even though he has much fewer scenes, Whitford as Broadway legend Sondheim is able to make me care just as much as de Jesus's emotional powerhouse Michael). Miranda's style does occasionally translate well less through his directing, but more through the editing of Kerstein and Weisblum, emphasizing and bolstering Miranda's trademark humor and fast-paced energy. The music, while leaving me a bit cold emotionally, has a speed and energy to it that is undeniable to shake, and Miranda does an excellent job at adapting these individual songs.
There are a few hangups, and they unfortunately overshadow a lot of positives this film has to offer. They mainly pertain to Miranda's overall direction and Larson himself.
1. Regarding Miranda, the film feels like it comes from both a place of passion and a place of ego. While Miranda is an excellent writer and composer, one can't help but feel he was attracted to his project through parallels of a tortured young genius living in New York who was always destined to make it big. As mentioned before, there is that infamous scene in the diner where Miranda and quite a few famous theatre performers cameo, which I thought was fine as a quick tongue-in-cheek method of generating a few laughs. The scene turns into a full-blown musical number, though, with only the experienced performers and Garfield singing, and it feels less like a happy moment and more like Miranda flexing his Broadway clout ("look, I got these famous people to sing all at once for my movie! isn't that cool?"). Similarly, I felt underwhelmed with the emotion-rousing numbers "Come to Your Senses", which gave an aura of 2000s-music-video (or should I call them short films now?), "Real Life", which has cheesy fade editing (I know I just praised the editors, but I felt like they weren't given much here), and "Louder than Words", which is a nice finale, but is shot with either a shot of Larson, a shot of the two backup vocalists, or a shot of someone in the audience - another whiff. (I will say my favorite number might be "Therapy", which has this interchanging tone of "emotionally exhausting and serious" with "keep smiling and hope for the best!" and I think it works pretty well).
2. Larson on his own has a mindset I can never really feel too connected with, similar to how I don't feel I can ever watch Into the Wild seriously without heavily repressing the idea that Chris McCandless was a naive and utter fool. The idea of "selling out" and the glorification of the bohemian lifestyle (concepts I also found problems with in Rent) are both not my jam in so many ways. I'm not one to knock on someone for different beliefs, but Larson is seen as a revolutionary for these ideals, and his mindset helped the "I'm a misunderstood genius even though I'm a 19-year-old theater kid" flourish and expand after it was at a point of near-extinction. So thanks, John.
Regardless, I did have fun with the movie, even if it reeks of ego from every facet of its being, and Garfield is undeniably a wonderful presence, so go watch it! You probably won't be as stubborn as me!