This adaptation of an award-winning Broadway musical has an opportunity through social anxiety with catchy tunes by Benj Pastek and Justin Paul to make an emotionally ‘honest and inspirational’ transition to the silver screen.
Regrettably, Dear Evan Hansen does so in a manipulative, misguided way with the casting of Ben Platt (from his 2015 stage victory) leading the way as the titular and devious, if finally atoning high-school senior.
The fact of the matter is that director Stephen Chbosky (who mined the modern) teenage dynamic well in The Perks of Being a Wallflower isn’t able to fashion the medium to meet the demands of material yearning for intimacy.
It doesn’t help that Platt (who obviously is vocally blessed and from the Pitch Perfect movies) is made up to look Evan’s age as he’s now 27 that backfires in what becomes more overwrought than expected. Even with a revamped conclusion that might have had the filmmakers calling into question the film’s smashing success and deviousness into a complex social media age.
Here’s a case where the musical numbers are hardly in short supply when dialogue may have sufficed on numerous occasions even when a couple or so land with surprising sincerity. Following the tragedy Evan’s duplicity can have a creepier element to it, which includes his feelings for Connor’s sister Zoe (Kaitlyn Denver) for Booksmart whom he’ll date.
The gangly castaway with a cast signed only by Connor becomes closer to his well-to-do family, including his mother (Amy Adams of Arrival and Enchanted). Adams as well as Julianne Moore as Evan’s hard-working nurse mother Heidi supply notable subtlety into their roles even if the latter may not take off that well in her bigger musical turns. Amandla Steinberg (The Hate U Give) continues to show why so many casting directors are interested in her as fundraising Alana Teaming up with Evan on ‘the Connor Project.’
An unlikability plays a major factor here that the Tony winner and the film just can’t overcome. As earnest and well intended as it may be even with semi-friends the fabrication of a reality in Dear Evan Hansen (in bedrooms, kitchens, and school hallways) reveals a thinness to the timelessness and poignancy that it expressed to winningly on stage.