DEAR EVAN HANSEN (2021)
Though fans of the Broadway show will no doubt be pleased, Dear Evan Hansen is an unfortunately dull film adaptation that fails to pierce its surface-level emotions with, muddling the intended message through a number of dry musical outings and an unbalanced cast.
Based on the Tony and and Grammy Award-winning musical, Dear Evan Hansen follows the titular Evan Hansen (Ben Platt), a young man struggling with Social Anxiety disorder, as he finds himself tangled in the aftermath of the suicide of a fellow classmate. Platt, though significantly older than the character he is playing and obviously so, delivers a heartfelt performance that, although a little exaggerated in a number of spots, is magnified by each and every one of his musical performances. He is, after all, the man that first brought the character of Evan Hansen to life. Kaitlyn Dever is excellent casting opposite Platt, her vocal forays a beautiful addition to the film. The film itself starts off strong with two powerful songs from Platt, but it slowly buckles under the weight of what it must accomplish with such a questionable plot, forcing viewers to ignore obvious miscasts and many songs that simply do not hit in order to find enjoyment. The messages of hope and support centered around mental health, as well as those pushing being yourself (amplified by LGBTQIA art, Black Lives Matter art, and more in the background at the school) are largely lost due to cringe-worthy distractions and an uneven execution.
The rest of the cast is fine with Amy Adams and Danny Pino, playing the parents of Dever’s Zoe and the late Connor (played by Colton Murphy) standing out and truly carrying the emotional baton. Julianne Moore, though effective (yet underused) as Evan’s mother, reaches an octave and emits a noise previously unheard of in a musical when she sings while crying… and it’s not a good one. Nik Dodani as Evan’s friend Jared delivers the comedic relief, however scarce those moments may be. Amandla Black as the go-getter high school student Alana Beck, however, is not given much to work with in her songs, which simply fall flat. Together the cast works with what they are given under the solid direction of Stephen Chbosky and coupled with beautiful cinematography.
Sadly, not every Broadway musical will translate well to the screen with Dear Evan Hansen being an example of one that excels on stage with the nuance and timing of theater, but it loses its heart in film. This is an unfortunate miss that drowns out the talents of its leads and completely misses the mark on delivery. Come for Waving Through A Window and For Forever, stay for You Will Be Found, then don’t expect much else to move the needle.
Dear Evan Hansen hits theaters this Friday.
Photo from Playbill