Dear Evan Hansen evaluate: Teen musical is sabotaged by creative mistakes


Dir: Stephen Chbosky. Starring: Ben Platt, Kaitlyn Dever, Amandla Stenberg, Nik Dodani, Colton Ryan, Danny Pino, Julianne Moore, Amy Adams. 12A, 137 minutes.

What shocked me most about Dear Evan Hansen is that, regardless of all of the visceral repulsion squared at Ben Platt for taking part in the musical adaptation’s teenaged lead, the actor was solely 26-years-old when filming began. You’d assume, from the response on social media, that he’d wormed himself out of a close-by crypt as a way to steal the function of a luckless excessive schooler caught up in a horrible lie, chirping songs penned by La La Land and The Greatest Showman’s Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Most of the forged of Riverdale are of their mid-to-late-twenties, and it’s hardly the first criticism anybody would have concerning the present. Adults have at all times performed youngsters, lengthy earlier than even Stockard Channing donned her Pink Ladies jacket in Grease, aged 33.

The downside with Dear Evan Hansen, which principally takes place in a high-school setting, with Platt because the desperately lonely Evan, is one in every of self-sabotage. Every creative resolution feels designed to make Platt seem considerably older than he already is, like Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum have been made to look within the 21 Jump Street motion pictures. The lighting on him is unforgivably harsh, creating traces in his options the place there have been no traces earlier than. His hair seems to be off-puttingly stiff and crunchy, whereas the kilos of make-up give him the pale, sweaty pallor of somebody in the course of an interrogation. And Platt performs the function of Evan – depressed and socially anxious – as a very mannered sequence of tics.

He picks at his fingers, he fiddles together with his shirt, he journeys over his phrases. Whenever he’d run, his practised stiffness jogged my memory of a video I as soon as noticed of a raccoon stealing meals from a canine’s bowl, because it galumphs away on two legs hoping nobody observed the kibble flowing out of its paws. But, in Platt’s defence, his solely mistake is one in every of easy maladjustment. He originated the function in 2014, remained on board for 3 years after, and even received a Tony Award for the hassle. The efficiency is so ingrained in him now that it most likely by no means crossed his thoughts that what works once you’re making an attempt to challenge youthful awkwardness to the again of an auditorium performs like a Saturday Night Live parody when the digital camera’s shut sufficient to choose up each muscle contortion.

And it’s a deathblow of a mistake for Dear Evan Hansen as a result of a lot of its story depends on how a lot leniency you’re keen to offer its central character. As written by Steven Levenson, the musical is meant to show how crushing adolescent loneliness could be, albeit in a means that stretches credulity and regular human perform. Evan is in remedy, and a part of his remedy calls for that he writes letters to himself as a type of self-empowerment and emotional discharge. One of those letters leads to the fingers of social pariah Connor (Colton Ryan), main Evan to worry that every one his most intimate ideas are about to be uncovered to the remainder of the varsity.

What begins out as one thing pretty innocuous grows more and more sociopathic when Evan (Ben Platt) begins dressing up his crush on Connor’s sister Zoe (Kaitlyn Dever) because the bonds of mutual grief


Instead, he’s referred to as into the principal’s workplace a couple of days later, the place Connor’s dad and mom (Amy Adams and Danny Pino) inform him that their son died by suicide with Evan’s letter in his possession. They’ve assumed it accommodates Connor’s remaining phrases, the final hint of a kid they’re determined to grasp. Adams is significantly convincing because the type of lady you simply can’t say no to – and, at first, it’s comprehensible why Evan may go together with the delusion, simply to appease a mom’s grief. But what begins out as one thing pretty innocuous grows more and more sociopathic when he begins dressing up his crush on Connor’s sister Zoe (Kaitlyn Dever) because the bonds of mutual grief. It solely will get worse from there.

Much like Platt’s efficiency, you may think about such excessive stakes working a bit higher on Broadway or the West End, the place there is no ceiling to dramatic strife. But director Stephen Chbosky appears to have solely reluctantly accepted Dear Evan Hansen as a musical, and never a repeat of his teen drama The Perks of Being a Wallflower. There’s little choreography or visible aptitude to talk of. Both Adams’s function, and that of Julianne Moore, enjoying Evan’s mom, have been diminished to flashy A-list cameos. Dever will get to shine as a sibling coping with the complicated grief of shedding somebody who abused and terrorised her most of her life. Amandla Stenberg advantages from an expanded function and a brand new tune, “The Anonymous Ones”, whereas enjoying an overachiever whose hidden struggles with melancholy add some complexity to the story. But when all roads lead again to Evan, and to Platt’s misstep of a efficiency, the movie turns into one large gamble that’s fairly disastrously didn’t repay.

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