Dear Evan Hansen-2021
Starring Ben Platt, Kaitlyn Dever, Amy Adams
Scott’s Review #1,258
Reviewed May 25, 2022
From the very first scene, Dear Evan Hansen (2021) grabbed me by the collar and never let me go. Providing an emotional wallop that mixes perfectly with meaningful and catchy pop songs the film is one that nearly everyone can relate to.
The oftentimes painful world of teenage angst is the central storyline and the dangerous and unfortunately too timely pandemic of mental illness is examined in heartwrenching form.
Dear Evan Hansen has a relevance that I found to be powerful and profound leaving me not soon forgetful of the experience.
I had never seen the hugely popular Broadway stage version so I only had a limited understanding of what the story was about going in. Still, as much as the subject matter is of great importance the film’s follow-through is what is tremendous and emotional with superb acting all around.
Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award winner Ben Platt reprises his stage role as the anxious, isolated high schooler named Evan Hansen who craves companionship and understanding. He suffers the same quandary that many fellow teenagers face in a world rendered impersonal and heartless. He tries to survive the pressures and the chaos of the social-media age.
Lonely, he meets a young man named Connor Murphy (Colton Ryan) who is as wounded as Evan is. They have an odd first (and only) exchange after which Connor steals a therapy assignment of Evan’s, a letter to himself. Soon after, Connor commits suicide and his parents, played by Amy Adams and Danny Pino assume the boys were best friends.
Evan lies about the events to spare Connor’s parents which ultimately leads to events spiraling out of control.
I’m well aware of the outpouring of negative reviews that have been hurled at the film and I don’t understand nor agree with any of them.
My hunch is that the stage version may have been even more powerful because it’s a live production and the raw emotion is right there but the film does right by it.
Sure, Platt looks older than a teenager. The actor was twenty-seven years old when he filmed Dear Evan Hansen and a mere twenty-two or so when it appeared on Broadway but so what? With talent as superior as he is why cast a movie star?
I didn’t hear anyone complain when Olivia Newton-John played the iconic role of Sandy, a seventeen-year-old in Grease (1978) at the ripe old age of thirty.
Sometimes a suspension of disbelief is required.
Platt is a terrific casting choice and encompasses the role of Evan completely. He is shockingly good in dramatic scenes or when he comically fumbles over his words. His dramatic voice perfectly infuses the production’s most recognizable number You Will Be Found.
Besides, there are big stars in Dear Evan Hansen. Amy Adams plays the emotionally drained but hopeful Cynthia Murphy, blessed with affluence at the price of losing a son. Julianne Moore plays the haggard nurse and financially struggling mother of Evan.
Both are fabulous.
The film is directed by Stephen Chbosky who is responsible for the terrific and sorely underappreciated film adaptation of the novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) which he also wrote. He knows how to tell a coming-of-age story.
There are a couple of foul balls to be aware of but the emotion to be felt far exceeds these pesky matters.
The film occasionally overplays its casting with the inclusion of a few stock characters like the Indian technology wizard and the perky, straight-A student with the same problems as everyone else, but the characters don’t have enough to do to make them bothersome.
The chemistry between Platt and Kaitlyn Dever as the romantic interest is only tepid but I didn’t watch this film for the teen romance.
I could not disagree with the torrent of negative reviews for Dear Evan Hansen (2021) more and urge anyone reading this review to take in the film and be prepared for a tearjerker that feels authentic and justified in its existence.