Ben Platt, Julianne Moore, Kaitlyn Dever, Amy Adams
Rated: PG-13 for thematic material involving suicide, brief strong language and some suggestive reference
2021 truly is the year of musicals. From ‘In The Heights’, ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’, to another Cinderella film, and the upcoming ‘West Side Story’, we are eating good in the musical genre. ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ has been a favorite for Broadway fans and has won tony awards and much praise from actor Ben Platt who plays the main character Evan Hansen. This has been a project for Platt since 2014 and now he is finally getting the chance to portray him on screen, but does it translate enough of what made the broadway show so brilliant?
I have to admit I haven’t watched the original show, but the soundtrack played a very important role in my life during the time of my Grandfathers passing. It was the only album I had downloaded (accidentally) on my Spotify, and I had a 5 hr drive to Rawlins Wyoming to attend the funeral. Listening to that album wasn’t only emotional but in some ways felt cathartic in the sense I didn’t feel alone, a phrase used often in the music. Now having seen the film, It’s a bitter pill to swallow but it simply just didn’t resonate with me as much as it did on that drive, and the issue comes from the directing and character choices.
It’s difficult to lob the complaint that it wasn’t as engaging as I’d hoped it would be, but from a creative standpoint I don’t understand why each musical number felt dull, uninterested, and even lazy in how they could have used the visual format. Perhaps its rigidness to the source material, or a reverence to keeping things minimal, but it dampened the overall message due to it.
We should also address Ben Platt and his age. honestly, we’ve had many many actors play high schoolers that look even older than Ben Platt (Flash Thompson from the 2002 Spider-Man). The issue didn’t come from the age for me, but more his physical portrayal of a character that feels so mentally broken and unable to function it’s hard not to wonder why he is in school, and not in a type of rehabilitation clinic. Evan could barely even come down stairs in this film and honestly I think that level of overacting felt somewhat disingenuous even if it was not meaning to be.
The acting all around aside from a couple just feel robotic and inauthentic. I just hoped for a lot more in this movie and I’m sure many more who are die-hard fans are facing their own internal conflict of whether this film works. For me it didn’t, but if people are able to get something out of the film and learn more about mental health and suicide prevention, that is a net positive in my book.