“Film adaptation of the Tony and Grammy Award-winning musical about Evan Hansen, a high school senior with Social Anxiety disorder and his journey of self-discovery and acceptance following the suicide of a fellow classmate.”

Director: Stephen Chbosky
Writers: Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul
Staring: Ben Platt, Julianne Moore, Kaitlyn Dever, Amy Adams
Release Date: September 24, 2021

Evan Hansen (Ben Pratt) is a high school student with severe mental illnesses and social-anxiety disorder. As a part of therapy, he writes letters to himself, titling them “Dear Evan Hansen”. One of Evan’s letters gets into the hands of a classmate Connor (Colton Ryan) who kills himself. Found on Connor’s person is the note that Evan wrote to himself, but it is misinterpreted that the two were actually best of friends. Evan gets woven into a spider-web of lies of his own creation, leading to a reconciling moment for himself and those he cares about.

In case you have been living under a rock, this movie is based on the Tony and Grammy award-winning musical that is written by Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. It should be noted that Stevenson also wrote tick, tick…BOOM! (2021), which is a much better musical movie experience.

Dear Evan Hansen (2021) is the second Stephen Chbosky venture I have seen. He only has four directing credits to his name, and this adaption is by far the worst reviewed of the bunch. I freaking adored Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012). All of the four movies Chbosky has directed have to do with an outsider attempting to fit into a bigger world and finding confidence within themselves.

Dear Evan Hansen may itself need to take a timeout and work through its own vision of itself.

Lets start off with the good before we get to the bad.

The two best parts of Dear Evan Hansen are Kaitlyn Dever as Zoe Murphy, and Amandla Stenberg as Alana Black.

Dever is a rising actress who has been on people’s radar for a while, and in Dear Evan Hansen, she is proving why once again. She is the most grounded character in the story and she acts like she is in real life and not a theatrical experience. The emotions that she was feeling about her brother’s suicide are complex and nuanced. I would like to buy the Dever stock.

Stenberg gets my praise because she had the scene in the movie that gripped me the most. The song “The Anonymous Ones” hit home for me and was the only part of Dear Evan Hansen where I was gripped to the screen. Her character shows strength by battling through her mental illnesses and not letting them handicap her success. She is the example of what to be and how to be a truthful person while dealing with inner demons. Credit to Stenberg for being the moral compass this movie needs.

How the hell did Evan not get in more trouble for what he did? I don’t like at all about how Dear Evan Hansen portrayed mental illness and how people cope with it, but what made me even more upset is how Evan doesn’t have any tangible consequences for what he did. Just because Evan is a bit of an odd duck himself does not mean that he deserves a free pass from poor decisions. That is not how the world works.

Sure, this shows that Evan has growth in himself as a character when he owns up to his mistakes, but there has to be more than that. For all purposes, this is a movie with a happy ending when the entire time someone was perpetuating a lie that would itself cause people immense anguish.

Another “how the hell” question for you.

How the hell did Julianne Moore and Amy Adams end up in a bad movie together again? Dear Evan Hansen is a follow up to The Woman In The Window (2021), which was a universally panned experiment. Do they share the same agent? Moore is at least salvageable in Dear Evan Hansen. Playing the part of Evan’s mom, she has scenes where she actually needs to act and emote. Adams on the other hand looks to be performing in botox. The same fake smile and fake okay attitude the entire movie, even after she finds out Evan has lied, is boring. There is no need to look at her as Cynthia Murphy when she is on screen because you’ll learn nothing new about her character.

Making a broadway play into a notable and successful movie is hard on numerous levels. I will be the first to admit that I don’t even know how to go about doing it so it is tough for me to throw stones from a glass house. But with that being said, fuck it, I will give it a try.

The transitions between scenes, dialogue and song in Dear Evan Hansen is a major flaw. In a play you can have the crescendo of the music built up to something. You can have the orchestra fill the void when settings need to be changed. In the movie, those natural breaks that plays allow for become non-existent. You know how in traditional sitcoms they have the static wide shots to alert the audience that they are going to transported to a new setting? In all honesty, Dear Evan Hansen needs that as well.

I just have some other nit-picks.

  • I know that it is overly talked about, but Ben Platt turned 27 the day this movie came out in theaters and he is supposed to be playing a high school student. There is an undeniable gap there.
  • This movie is a disaster for me because it is built on cringe, and I hate cringe. I do not like any of it if I am being honest. There are multiple scenes where you are forced to endure terrible embarrassment and I do not enjoy that as a viewer.
  • Larry Mora (Danny Pino) is the most lawyer-looking figure of all time. He is either in a suit, or wearing a far too clean sweater. It is comical how business they made him look.
  • So Evan’s lone friend before all the mess is Jared Kalwani (Nik Dodani). He just lets Evan go through with this?

Dear Evan Hansen may be one of the best Broadway shows in recent memory, but as a movie, this story is not worth watching. There are very few redeemable aspects, and the message its sending does not resonate the same way a theatrical play. The over earnest nature of the acting and the story do not handle the more microscopic views of the movie cameras well in any way shape or form.

STANKO RATING: D (1.5/5 Stars)


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