Tuesday, September 14, 2021

A Glass of Wine at the Movies - Dear Evan Hansen

Dear Evan Hansen

Rating:  PG-13

Director: Stephen Chbosky

Language: English

Length: 137 minutes

Cast: Ben Platt, Kaitlyn Dever, Amy Adams

Viewing Method: TIFF Digital Screening

Release Date: September 24, 2021

Synopsis: The breathtaking, generation-defining Broadway phenomenon becomes a soaring cinematic event as Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award winner Ben Platt reprises his role as an anxious, isolated high schooler aching for understanding and belonging amid the chaos and cruelty of the social-media age.


The Dear Evan Hansen musical has plenty of fans. It is a story that seems to have resonated with a lot of people who relate to some of the themes and the emotions that the title character experiences throughout the play. It's getting a big screen adaptation and I am not so sure that the impact the play has translates from stage to screen.

It is easy to see why Ben Platt won a Tony for his portrayal of Evan Hansen. There are plenty of online jokes detailing how he looks too old for this role, but you immediately understand why they wanted to capture his performance of this character. He's incredible and I finished the movie wishing I had gotten the chance to see him perform this role on Broadway. Sadly, all of the nuances that made Ben Platt amazing in this role on stage do not translate quite as well to screen. He's still great, but a lot of the larger mannerism and ticks that go into making the character of Evan come to life feel too loud when transferred to the more intimate feel of film. 

The supporting cast is equally well cast. Both Kaitlyn Dever and Amandla Stenberg are wonderful. Amy Adam and Julianne Moore shine in their perspective roles. Colton Ryan also stood out to me in the role of Connor. He's great in the few scenes he has and shines brightly whenever he is on screen. The casting is probably one of the strongest elements of the movie as I don't think anyone is miscast. 

The music is probably one of my favourite elements of both the play and this movie. Catchy and designed to be memorable, you'll be singing them long after you've watched the movie. The cast does well with their respective songs and Ben Platt's voice is a perfect match for the material. They are songs that are easy to infuse with emotion and will resonate with viewers. I expect it'll sell a lot of soundtracks after the movie is released.

The plot of the play has problematic elements to it and those elements are carried over to the screen adaptation. Evan's actions are certainly misguided and feel very cruel in the end. The biggest problem is the lack of consequences for his actions. We can forgive some of Evan's transgressions by taking his youth into account (something Ben Platt's age doesn't lend itself to) but there does come a point in which he should have known better. The pain his actions cause others is profound but little is made of how his lies would have weighed on Connor's family. It's a hard thing to get past and one that feels all the more glaring on screen.

Connor's death also feels like a footnote in the Evan Hansen story. His death is made to be all about Evan in retrospect. His life is made to be a catalyst in Evan's and that doesn't allow his loss to be registered by the viewer in any significant way. It's viewed through the prism of how it relates to Evan. This also feels by design because if we cared more about Connor than Evan's actions would feel even more egregious.

There are a lot of themes that this play delves into. I think would work well as a conversation starter between parents and young teens if this was watched together. Evan's actions could be dissected along with the more positive messages it offers. The 'it gets better/you are not alone' message is one that has been shared before but it never hurts to have it shared again and in a format that goes down pretty easy for the viewer.

I think fans of the play will mostly like this. I also think it will be a hit with most audiences. It's very watchable, and you cannot help but get swept up in the story and sympathize with Evan's pain. It will particularly appeal to younger teens who may seem themselves reflected in some of these characters. It requires deeper thought and reflection on the execution of its message, but I can't deny the power of the message being shared wrapped in good performances.

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