The Andrew Garfield Renaissance

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2021 has really proven to be Andrew Garfield’s year: he’s received acclaim for his transformative role as a televangelist in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, generated Oscar buzz for his performance in the musical Tick, Tick…Boom! and…yeah, that’s pretty much it, there’s no way home he could’ve done anything else to top the phenomenal year he’s had. But seriously, it’s astounding how, for a guy who once had to guest-star in a Doctor Who two-parter with human pigs, Andrew Garfield has won the heart of the entire internet when for a few years it appeared as though he had completely disappeared from the public eye. So, did the hype for Garfield really ever fade away? 

The Social Network’ was arguably Garfield’s biggest breakthrough

Casting your minds back a decade or so, The Social Network was arguably Garfield’s biggest breakthrough. Although much of the hype at the time was geared towards Jesse Eisenberg’s uncannily realistic acting as the lizard-man Mark Zuckerberg, Garfield’s role as co-founder Eduardo Saverin still found considerable praise for playing arguably the most sympathetic character in the entire film. The entire sequence in which he confronts Zuckerberg over the dilution of his shares in Facebook is a masterclass in acting, from his anguished expressions on being screwed over by his so-called best friend to his seething rage at Justin Timberlake’s sleazy character and venomous vow to sue Facebook for everything it’s worth. It’s an iconic monologue that serves as the emotional climax of the film and I still consider it an enormous snub by the Academy that Garfield never even received a nod for Best Supporting Actor.

Garfield would eventually seize his chance at an Oscar, however, when he received a Best Actor nomination for his work as a conscientious objector in the war epic Hacksaw Ridge. But after that buzz, alongside his role in Scorsese’s Silence as a Jesuit priest, Hacksaw Ridge was probably Garfield’s last shine in the public limelightFor the remainder of the 2010s, Garfield’s time was mostly spent working on a couple of independent films that didn’t really receive that much success. 

Of course, at this point, it would be sheer neglect on my behalf to completely ignore his stint as Spider-Man in Marc Webb’s short-lived Amazing Spider-Man series. Admittedly, I must confess that all these years later I’m still not the biggest fan of the Amazing Spider-Man films. The plot is all over the place, the supervillains are exceptionally pathetic (I AM THE RHINOOOOO!) and the overly realistic take on Spidey’s origins, tying in with some random conspiracy his scientist parents were involved in, just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. 

But it’s such a shame that Garfield got saddled with such weak writing because he constantly knocks it out of the park performance-wise. His Spidey is probably the funniest in the quips department, harkening back most accurately to the original 60s comic book, but he’s still able to maintain the heart of the wallcrawler in his role as a friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, not just beating up bad guys but taking the time to help a little kid fix his science project. Unusually for a superhero flick, the one aspect most people tend to agree is the strongest point within Garfield’s films is the romance angle. The genuine chemistry and development between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, likely enhanced by Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone’s real-life relationship at the time, proves to be genuinely compelling drama. You really want them to get together and see what story possibilities await them and… Gwen’s dead. After just two films. Oh well…

Interestingly, there’s actually an alternate ending that was filmed for the second movie where Peter is visited at Gwen’s grave by his missing father whom he presumed to be dead. It functions as such a bizarre out-of-nowhere twist which makes absolutely no sense within the context of the film. And yet, for the lazy writing, the scene almost works if only for Garfield’s spectacular acting in showing Peter’s upset and grief over Gwen’s death, and anger at his father for leaving him alone all these years. It’s some of his finest work as the wallcrawler and it remains a shame that he was never vindicated for his genuinely good performance… 

He’s able to immediately steal the movie through hitting all the emotional beats

Ok, cat’s out of the bag, everyone was expecting Garfield to make a return in No Way Home but no one expected him to be the standout star, even outshining Tobey Maguire in public attention. Although he’s introduced relatively late into the film, he’s able to immediately steal the movie through hitting all the emotional beats, retaining his hilarious quips but knowing to apply the subtle poignancy when the film needs it. It all leads to what is probably the most cathartic scene in the entire movie, when he rescues Zendaya’s MJ, finally redeeming himself for Gwen’s death. In fact, it’s a testimony to his phenomenal acting skills that in less than thirty minutes of screen time, Garfield’s reintroduction as the web-slinger instigated mass fan outcry for Sony to produce a third Amazing Spider-Man movie, allowing Garfield to join Maguire and Holland in having a fully rounded-out trilogy. Well, who knows what the future holds…

I still feel that ‘Tick, Tick…Boom!’ has probably been Garfield’s greatest accomplishment to date

But for all the hype surrounding No Way Home, I still feel that Tick, Tick…Boom! has probably been Garfield’s greatest accomplishment to date, cementing how he never truly faded from the public consciousness. Banking on his theatre experience from acclaimed productions such as Angels in America, Garfield effortlessly brings the manic energy of Jonathan Larson to life, getting a chance to show off his singing and dancing skills, and he does his own swimming too! I don’t want to give away too much because I just want to convince as many people as possible to see it on Netflix but, suffice to say, if he doesn’t net a Best Actor nomination for his rendition of ‘Louder Than Words’, I will actually riot. 

In reviewing his entire career, it really does seem clear how the hype for Andrew Garfield never really went away, although as my good friend Wendy reminded me “he won a freaking Tony, he never left, you just weren’t looking” (curse my limited theatre knowledge…). But regardless of whether he generates Oscar success or not, I’m just happy the man’s back in the limelight again and cannot wait for what project he features in next. Who knows? Maybe the day will come when he gets to actually use his British accent…

Image: Gerald Geronimo via Wikimedia Commons

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