TL;DR – A film with equal parts frustrating and problematic, but when the emotions hit, you can’t help but be caught up with it.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film
Warning – Deals with themes regarding suicide
Dear Evan Hansen Review –
Dear Evan Hansen is one of those films you have never heard of before or a film you have been listening to on repeat for years. For me, my first introduction to the film came from that first trailer that dropped this year, and that was a lot. But I go into this without the legacy of the musical to either help or hinder my experience with the film. However, now that I have seen the movie, well, ‘a lot’ was an understatement.
So to set the scene, Evan (Ben Platt) is struggling because he is about to start high school back after a long, difficult summer, and social interactions were not easy for him before. On the instructions of his psychiatrist, Evan starts writing letters to himself. However, when Evan goes to print one of the letters out at school, one of the troublemakers in the school Connor (Colton Ryan), intercepts it and takes it with him. Evan is expecting the worst but is surprised that Connor does not plaster it all over the internet. The reason becomes apparent when Connor’s parents Cynthia (Amy Adams) and Larry (Danny Pino), ask to speak to him. For Connor had taken his own life, but they had found Evan’s note. The only problem is that they think Connor was the one to write it.
Okay, look, I have a lot of issues with this film, but there are some moments where it shines. One example where the translations from a musical to film works in its favour is the song they sing when Evan and Jared (Nik Dodani) are faking Connor’s emails. The use of the ever-changing narrative works because you can shift it up in a way that you can’t do easily in a more static medium. As well as this, the cast is all here for the film, which makes you follow along even when the story is not quite there. The highlight for me was the casting of the parents. In this film, Amy Adams has such a powerful presence that you feel that you need to find out one more thing about her son. Then there is Danny Pino, whose performance honestly broke me at one point.
However, we can’t talk about the film without discussing one of the significant issues with it. Historically, Hollywood has a long history of casting much older people as teenagers, and it usually is not an important issue, but it is here. Ben Platt has the voice and can belt out those songs as no one could, and he cares deeply for the role. However, a combination of make-up and costuming does not help him appear younger but does the opposite, and thei film’s need to use extreme closeup gives it nowhere to hide. This is a major problem because you need the suspension of disbelief that this teenager is making this deeply wrong choice and lying to the family. A teenager would see the mother’s pressure and cave with one little white lie that snowballs. Without that suspension of disbelief, all of the problematic aspects of the film/musical leap from the background to the text. This is all escalated because the rest of the cast fit into their teenage roles much better, thus amplifying the effect. All is not helped by several of the songs not working in the film medium holding up the pacing, but when the songs and the film do line up, you can’t help but get sucked into it all.
In the end, do we recommend Dear Evan Hansen? Look, when this film works, it works, and I think some of the messaging behind it is admirable. However, I spent most of my time feeling deeply uncomfortable about the whole thing. So, while I know, this is going to be a very personal film, and for me personally, I can’t recommend it. If you did like it and want to see another recent musical, I would recommend to you In the Hights.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Dear Evan Hansen
Directed by – Stephen Chbosky
Screenplay by – Steven Levenson
Based on – Dear Evan Hansen by Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek & Justin Paul
Music by – Justin Paul & Dan Romer
Cinematography by – Brandon Trost
Edited by – Anne McCabe
Production/Distribution Companies – Marc Platt Productions, Perfect World Pictures & Universal Pictures
Starring – Ben Platt, Amy Adams, Danny Pino, Kaitlyn Dever, Julianne Moore, Amandla Stenberg, Nik Dodani, Colton Ryan, DeMarius Copes, Liz Kate, Isaac Cole Powell, Zoey Luna, Avery Bederman, Gerald Caesar, Tommy Kane, Marvin Leon,
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 6; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13