Friday, September 24, 2021

Dear Evan Hansen - Review


Many an opinion were expressed at the thought of casting twenty-seven year old Ben Platt as a high schooler. Some were fine, most were bad. It’s hard to deny that the sheer appearance of an actor who does not look even close to young enough for high school could absolutely tank a film before it ever releases, however, with Dear Evan Hansen that’s just not the case. Having a twenty-seven year old play an eighteen year old is the least of this film’s issues. 

Evan Hansen (Ben Platt) is an anxious, isolated high-school student who's aching for understanding and belonging amid the chaos and cruelty of the social media age. He soon embarks on a journey of self-discovery when a letter he wrote for a writing exercise falls into the hands of a grieving couple whose son took his own life. 

For those not in the know, this film is an adaptation of the stage musical of the same name. The original won the Tony for Best Musical and Platt won for his performance as well, but it’s not as if everyone adored it either. It was scrutinized for its main character being sort of the worst and never really facing any consequences for his actions. And if that sounds bad, the film version makes it even worse. 

There are multiple musical numbers from the stage that show other characters perspective’s of Evan’s actions, mainly one in particular that heavily showcases what his own mother has been feeling. And even though it doesn’t completely remedy the bad things Evan has said and done, it’s a powerful statement about the people he has left behind along the way. The film cuts it. Along with three other songs that go a long way to make the story a little more empathetic. 

It’s not as if the actors aren’t giving it their all though. Outside of a miscasting, Platt does what he can. Same with Amy Adams and Julianne Moore, only instead of being miscast, they’re just criminally wasted. The only performance that truly feels worthwhile in terms of getting good moments and turning in a great performance is Kaitlyn Dever. The actress has quietly made a name for herself, and here, she’s the centerpiece of one of the few good scenes because of how committed to it she feels. 

That scene just so happens to be one of the best songs from the musical, “Requiem”, and the same is true for the film version. It is one of two truly good, maybe even great, scenes in the entirety of the film. With “Requiem”, you truly do get the mixed emotions that would come from the situation, and it’s sold beautifully by Kaitlyn Dever. And the other is the new song for the adaptation “The Anonymous Ones”, given to Amandla Stenberg’s character Alana. It’s a great addition to the soundtrack first of all, but it also captures some true emotion, something that the other songs just can’t muster in the transfer from stage to screen. 

As ill-sighted as this adaptation was from the jump, there was potential for the filmmakers to shift the narrative ever so slightly for the screen. Instead, we get a shoddy attempt to tug at heartstrings for awards glory that never examines the flaws it has in its move from the stage. It isn’t all terrible, the two scenes mentioned above are great moments, but then there’s about two more hours of movie outside of that, and none of that’s good at all. It’s not a Cats level train wreck, but big musical adaptations are definitely batting .500 in 2021 so far. 

No comments :

Post a Comment