Andrew Garfield has been living the high life. Whether it be his starring in “tick, tick…BOOM!” (2021), which garnered him an Academy Award nominationor his eye-catching turn as Jim Baker in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” (2021), Garfield has worked hard to prove his acting talents. Combined with his brief role reprisal in the recent “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (2021)the year has brought a new and overwhelming cultural phenomenon: Garfield-mania.
One source of this recent fervor, and the stronghold of Garfield’s most powerful performance, must be his role in “Tick, tick… BOOM!” in the movie Garfield plays Jonathan Larson, the famous musical theater composer of the hit musical “Rent” (1996)which made its off-Broadway premiere right after Larson’s passing. The film serves as a personal manifesto on the creative process and the sacrifices one makes for their art. Garfield’s performance in the film is electric, leading the viewer through the highs and lows of Larson’s life. Outside of his outstanding performance within the film, however, is his usage of media and storytelling to create a buzz. Garfield had never sung before filming the movie but rather learned for the part after his and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s mutual massage therapist recommended him for the part. This tale, along with countless other stories and antics, created a groundswell of support for Garfield. It’s that wave that Garfield has ridden to his Academy Awards nomination — not just a great performance but a great narrative.
Still, one must recognize the sheer talent and art behind Garfield’s performances. This shines through in Garfield’s other hit film of the year, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” Garfield stars as Jim Bakker, famed televangelist and husband to the titular Tammy Faye. Baker was deeply personable, using his charm and hospitality to Financially exploit his fans and followers. Thus, Garfield’s performance must have two independent layers, both the charisma and the cunning. He’s able to take this on effectively, ultimately devastating the viewer in betraying their well-established trust. When the final shoe drops, the viewer is both shocked and satisfied — wasn’t this the kind, joyous Baker they knew all along? That trust, and that ability to distort personal faith, is a testament to Garfield’s performance.
When discussing the cultural phenomenon of Garfield, it’s difficult to parse out a specific origin. Is it the acting, which allows the viewer to be captivated by his charm and character? Or is the narrative, which allows Garfield’s celebrity status to reach households all across the country? Likely, the answer is both. Nonetheless, Garfield has fundamentally captured the cultural conscience.