The Stream: While depicted earnestly, the story is kind of preposterous.
The Big Screen: Emotional and sincere with catchy and beautiful songs.
The Final Bill: Either you will connect with Evan Hansen and forgive his transgressions, or you won’t; but, at least, enjoy the music.– Trip Fontaine
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Writers: Steven Levenson (screenplay by), Justin Paul (based on the music stage play with music and lyrics by), Benj Pasek (based on the music stage play with music and lyrics by)
Stars: Ben Platt, Julianne Moore, Kaitlyn Dever
Genre: Drama, Musical
Runtime: 2 hours 8 minutes
Production Companies: Marc Platt Productions, Perfect World Pictures, Universal Pictures
Platform: Released in theaters September 24, 2021
This weekend was a good weekend, and here’s why… because this weekend saw the release of the Broadway sensation turned big screen adaptation, Dear Evan Hansen. Ben Platt reprises his Tony award winning role as isolated, anxiety-ridden Evan Hansen and leads a cast of Hollywood stars, including Julianne Moore and Amy Adams. The controversial musical was very successful on the stage, but stage plays don’t always translate to the big screen that well. Here’s how it goes.
Admittedly, I am an unabashed fan of the stage version of Dear Evan Hansen; therefore, I do not come to the film version unbiased. Let’s start with a brief synopsis of the plot: Evan Hansen is senior in high school suffering with sever anxiety and depression and mired in loneliness and isolation. Evan lives with his overworked and harried single mother, Heidi (Julianne Moore). Evan’s therapist has tasked him with writing self-affirming letters to himself to as a therapeutic exercise, thus “Dear Evan Hansen…” On the first day of school of his senior year, Evan encounters Connor (Colton Ryan), a fellow outsider with anger issues, who happens to be the brother of Evan’s crush. A tragedy involving Connor occurs that leads to Evan being pulled into misunderstandings with Connor’s family. Musical “hijinks” ensue, but in very dramatic fashion.
Dear Evan Hansen is faithful to the stage version in terms of plot and structure. Yes, some of the original songs have been removed and at least two new songs have been added, but the changes have no real detrimental effect on the emotional heft of the material. The central misunderstanding that snowballs is problematic to some and can be controversial, but the heart of the film aligns the audience with the plight of Evan, who is himself a tragic character searching for a place to belong. It’s all done in song. Either you will connect with the story and forgive the transgressions of the main character, or you won’t. It’s a tearjerker if I ever saw one.
If you watch “You Will Be Found” without shedding a tear, then please have that lump of coal where your heart was checked.
As far as it’s elements, the actors do a great job of selling this film. Ben Platt is a fantastic singer. He is too old to play this 17 year-old character, and he looks it; but, his performance is still very good. He digs into the deep pain that Evan is trying to escape. Some of it is too theatrical, but the story is overwrought so it fits. But boy can this man sing! He very much is the star of the show. I’ll also note that Kaitlyn Dever does a good job as Zoe, Connor’s sister and Evan’s crush. She had understandable angst and grief. Dever is a good singer as well. Dever delivers on “Requiem”, a tender song about the variations of grief. Everyone else does an adequate job, I guess. Then, there are the songs which are staged so well – the aforementioned “You Will Be Found”, “Requiem” blends the grief of the three remaining Murphy family members beautifully, and “Sincerely, Me” is fun in the midst of it all. Really, you could just enjoy the songs even if you don’t buy into the story. That could be enough.
Generally, Dear Evan Hansen comes together to be faithful adaptation of a popular musical. It is a star vehicle for Ben Platt, and while he may be miscast due to his age, he does a great job delivering the songs and emotions of the story. If you are a fan of the stage version, you should enjoy the movie version; and get your big box of popcorn. For the others out there, there are enough problems that you may find it overall contrived and hokey – but the music is still great. Get a bowl of popcorn and sing along once you’ve learned the songs.