Dear Evan Hansen, the movie adaptation of the 2015 stage musical, has been officially been released. The film is directed by Stephen Chbosky and produced by Universal Pictures. The original stage adaptation is by Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul. The film follows Evan Hansen (Ben Platt), a high-school senior with a severe social anxiety disorder. Evan’s therapist has assigned him to write letters to himself about how great the day is going to be. When one of those letters is found by Connor Murphy (Colton Ryan), the school’s “troubled kid,” Evan fears that his secrets will be exposed, including his secret crush on Zoe Murphy (Kaitlyn Dever). However, things don’t go the way Evan expected after Connor’s parents, Cynthia (Amy Adams) and Larry (Danny Pino), tell him that Connor took his own life. They give Evan back his letter but mistake him and their son for having been friends. Thinking it might help the Murphy’s heal, Evan goes along with the lie, which leads to even bigger lies that help Evan gain attention, but he could be exposed at any moment.
One of the biggest points that was brought up by fans of the stage musical was the fact that Ben Platt was still playing the role of Evan. He was a part of the original Broadway cast from 2015-2016. Remarks were made about Platt being too old for playing the role of a teenager, which was dealt with by de-aging Platt in the film. In what would have most likely be such a distracting aspect of Dear Evan Hansen, it rarely becomes an issue. Platt set an example in terms of playing the role of Evan, especially since he played the role for such a long time. Platt was able to easily embody the way Evan spoke and his overall mannerisms.
A major surprise of Dear Evan Hansen was Dever’s performance as Zoey. As a fan of the stage musical, it’s hard to forget what an incredible job Laura Dreyfuss did with her original portrayal of Zoey. However, Dever was able to add her own unique perspective to Zoey without completely changing the character. The connection that Zoey made with Evan felt more authentic while watching it on the big screen and happened almost instantaneously after they met. The film did an incredible job at making their connection not feel too forced as well, which gave it more importance in the overall plot. Zoey was a much more authentic character.
“Oscar Bait” has become a popular term that’s used within the film community. It’s a word that describes a movie that seems to have been made to garner attention during award season, especially for the Academy Awards. Dear Evan Hansen has one major element that would classify it as an “Oscar Bait” film. The casting of Julianne Moore as Evan’s mom and Adams as Cynthia Murphy is a clear sign. Both are phenomenal actresses who have been nominated for numerous awards, which gives Dear Evan Hansen even more support during award season. That’s not to say that they don’t deliver incredible scenes, especially with Platt, but it’s not easy to ignore their caliber of talent in terms of award nominations. But choosing to cast them adds an elevated level that just isn’t enough to carry it to success.
The music throughout Dear Evan Hansen was absolutely superb. Platt and Dever give outstanding performances in their respective songs and in the duets that they have. Hearing them sing “If I Could Tell Her” and “Only Us” was simply incredible. It was clear just how much their characters cared for one another, despite the secrets that Evan had been keeping from her. Another stand-out performance was “Sincerely Me,” which was sung by Platt, Ryan, and Nik Dodani. The song details the fake friendship that Evan and Connor had. The nonsensical aspects of their friendship, combined with the upbeat song, were perfectly displayed. There was also a new original song, “The Anonymous Ones,” which was given to Alana (Amandla Stenberg). The song played an important part in giving her character more depth while also relating to the theme of feeling alone that the film focuses on. However, questionable choices were made in some scenes which had Evan be in conversation with other characters but through song. I understand that’s how musicals work but the transitions made these scenes feel out of place and disrupted the flow of the conversations’ importance. It could be a way to include more songs from the original soundtrack, but it makes much more sense to just cut them or find other ways to make them flow together.
As far as being an adaptation goes, Dear Evan Hansen did an average job in making sure that most of the original stage musical components were included. The characters, plot, and overall themes of the original stage play were still there. However, a lot of the emotion that’s supposed to be present throughout the show is just never there. I found myself timing when certain scenes would spark any emotion but they never came. The closest scenes that brought up any real emotions were during some of the musical numbers, in particular, “You Will Be Found” and “Only Us.” Part of what made the stage musical special was the emotion that it emanated, but without it, the adaptation just felt very stale.
Overall, Dear Evan Hansen proved to be an adept adaptation of the original stage musical but ultimately disappointing in several areas. Platt and Dever had such incredible chemistry and displayed outstanding performances, but they weren’t enough to carry this film to the level it should have been. The musical numbers were great, including the new original song, but the timing in which some of them were included disrupted the flow of the film. If anything, this just feels like complete “Oscar Bait” when it should have been an incredible adaptation. With films like In The Heights displaying how musical adaptations should be done, Dear Evan Hansen just proved that not all musicals should be adapted, no matter how successful they were during their original runs.
Dear Evan Hansen is now playing in theaters.
Dear Evan Hanswen
- Rating - 6.5/106.5/10
Dear Evan Hansen proved to be an adept adaptation of the original stage musical but ultimately disappointing in several areas. Platt and Dever had such incredible chemistry and displayed outstanding performances, but they weren’t enough to carry this film to the level it should have been. The musical numbers were great, including the new original song, but the timing in which some of them were included disrupted the flow of the film. If anything, this just feels like complete “Oscar Bait” when it should have been an incredible adaptation. With films like In The Heights displaying how musical adaptations should be done, Dear Evan Hansen just proved that not all musicals should be adapted, no matter how successful they were during their original runs.