Even on Film, ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ Can’t Fix the Musical’s Main Problem

Expensive Evan Hansen, the smash-hit, Tony profitable 2015 musical, was, relying in your outlook, a poignant depiction of the psychological well being perils of highschool, or an unrelentingly cynical little bit of smarm about somebody doing a horrible factor and turning into a hero for it. The story—a few troubled, lonely teen who, in search of human connection, fakes a previous friendship with a classmate who has died by suicide—has huge potential for darkness. And but the Broadway (and, beforehand, off-Broadway) manufacturing as an alternative pointed itself squarely on the broad, bludgeoning uplift endemic to its day.

The present made a star of its lead, Ben Platt, and was vaunted into the musical canon as a chunk of theater that keenly spoke, in all its social-media plotting, to the current tense. There was most likely at all times going to be a film, and thus there may be, which premiered right here on the Toronto Worldwide Movie Pageant on Thursday. Would the movie model resolve the issues of the stage present, or solely additional exacerbate them?

As directed by Stephen Chbosky—a novelist turned filmmaker who coated related territory within the movie adaptation of his personal ebook, The Perks of Being a Wallflower—the movie is an enchancment in some areas, whereas nonetheless incapable of escaping the rot on the property’s core. The hope, little doubt, was that within the intimate framing of a film, the cautious nuance and texture so crucially missing within the play could possibly be extra simply sussed out—or newly created. Gone can be the massive gestures of Broadway, changed by extra exacting closeup, by true and complex character.

Stretches of the film do bear out that idea. Evan, a nervous wreck with a forged on his arm from a mysterious accident over the summer time, does certainly appear extra palpably hemmed in by his cramped highschool environs than he did underneath the towering peak of a midtown proscenium arch. The quotidian plainness of teenage life, its kitchen conversations and hallway tensions, register extra persuasively.

And, it maybe should be mentioned, Hollywood clout has drawn in a number of respectable performers to accompany Platt: Kaitlyn Dever, Amandla Stenberg, Danny Pino, Amy Adams, and Julianne Moore. They aren’t higher than the individuals who performed their roles on Broadway, however they do lend the image some not unwelcome glow.

Platt is the one authentic forged bear in mind to reprise his position for the movie, a proven fact that has despatched some eyes rolling partly as a result of Platt’s invaluable Broadway co-star Rachel Bay Jones additionally received a Tony for her troubles, but has been swapped out for the Oscar-winning Moore. It doesn’t appear honest. Platt can be fairly visibly in his late 20s, a far cry from the shivering, barely adolescent pipsqueak Evan is meant to be. Chbosky and the hair, make-up, and lighting groups can’t do a lot to cowl up that reality, rendering the movie’s central character as an intruder oddity from some other-world. Evan Hansen is himself an intruder in his method, however the off-ness of Platt’s presence within the movie method overstates the case.

The actual bother of Platt’s efficiency, although, is that he doesn’t dial down for the digital camera. He maintains almost all of his stage work’s extremely articulated tics—Evan’s hunched gait and wiggling palms, his stammered speech patterns—which performed positive from many yards again in a theater, however are too mannered on movie. He stands proud amongst his extra screen-seasoned forged mates, as if his Broadway efficiency was merely video captured and, by CGI magic, bizarrely aged up and digitally inserted into everybody else’s littler, humbler film.

When Platt sings, a lot of that strangeness briefly evaporates. His highly effective bari-tenor, typically easy and plush, different occasions cracking into a lovely Joni Mitchell plaint, communicates Evan’s emotional state way more cogently than does his performing. Dever and Stenberg are additionally in stunning voice, revealing further skills many people didn’t know they’d. As Connor, the useless boy who haunts the movie, up-and-coming stage actor Colton Ryan affords a compelling argument for larger stardom, although he additionally too simply reads as an grownup. Pino and Adams (who play Connor’s dad and mom) and Moore (as Evan’s mother, Heidi) all take pleasure in good musical moments, although Jones’s raspy belt is sorely missed throughout Heidi’s 11 o’clock quantity.

The place Dever, Pino, Adams, and Moore actually do their heaviest lifting is in making an attempt to extract thematic worth out of Expensive Evan Hansen’s tortured plot, which considerations a vile cruelty that frames Evan as extra of a Thomas Ripley determine than simply your common depressed child who will get in over his head. A tragic misunderstanding leads Connor’s household to assume that he and Evan have been the most effective of mates, a mistruth that Evan at first perpetuates tentatively after which wholeheartedly. Particularly because it brings Connor’s sister Zoe (performed by Dever) ever nearer. Evan has lengthy had a crush on Zoe, who warms to Evan as he spins tales about how a lot Connor—a tough, violent presence in her life—secretly cherished his sister and yearned to be a greater brother.

This dawning relationship, which the movie frames as candy and romantic (albeit briefly), brings up some thorny and pertinent questions of consent. Evan’s is a horrible violation, and but the stage present and now the film do little to correctly contextualize that. Nonetheless, Dever finds admirable shading throughout the film’s insistence that Zoe not be too mad at Evan when all is revealed. She’s such an intuitive, resourceful actor that she will be able to’t assist however wrestle some redemption out of this imbalanced materials. Adams additionally manages a posh sort of desolation and grownup empathy, a weary and heartbroken smile in her ultimate scene illustrating an ocean of conflicted feeling.

https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2021/09/09/dear-evan-hansen-review-ben-platt-toronto | Even on Movie, ‘Expensive Evan Hansen’ Can’t Repair the Musical’s Most important Downside


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