Max Fontaine’s review published on Letterboxd:
I’m not a musical man, and I have a knack for finding theatre kids largely irritating… safe to say this one was always gonna be an uphill struggle.
Lin-Manuel clearly sees a lot of himself in Larson, leading to an compromised, egocentric portrait of a struggling artist that’s just too full of itself to ever notice how abominably romanticised and cliche the whole thing is. The lack of self awareness is mind-numbing.
In this, Larson is not an endearing, grappling underdog; he’s a conceited socialite douchebag who reveres his own art to such a degree that those closest to him and their struggles are merely lyrics on a sheet. This applies to the screenplay, which utilises the hindrances of those far less-privileged than Larson as a means to accentuate his unyielding talent as a writer. It’s ultimately tragic how he met his fate, yet all focus is on a bloke whose growth is subpar, who endures little struggle that’s not self-induced, and is honestly a precocious, annoying arsehole who ultimately gets everything he desires in spite of the otherworldly obstacle of turning 30. I’m sorry, but no. As an aspiring artist, Larson’s struggles are not relatable to me, nor do Manuel’s lyrical anachronisms imbue me with confidence or glee.
There’s obviously a lot subtext-wise that rubbed me wrong, but never once was a swept up in the characters or filmmaking purely because everything just felt so basic and bland. Why’s everything so bright and overlit? Where’s the buzzing New York atmosphere that many fictional creatives have been absorbed, crushed by and spat out of? The film lacks the necessary texture and artistic pragmatism to fully ensnare me, not does it ever commit to theatre-level flourishes of colour and absurdity.
I actually lowered my rating ½ a star midway through writing this. This one just pissed me off me in a way that few musicals have. I didn’t even mention what’s usually my biggest gripe with these films, that being the musical numbers, mainly because I was too irritated by the smugness of the writing outside of them to properly dedicate adequate annoyance to their corny lyrics and hackneyed purpose.