“Dear Evan Hansen,” you could have been worse


Rebekah Nelson

On Sept. 25th, Dear Evan Hansen releasesd in theaters. The movie features Ben Platt as the main character and is based on a coming-of-age stage musical that came out in 2016.

“Dear Evan Hansen,” released on Sept. 26, is a film adaptation of the Tony Award-winning stage musical by the same name. The story follows the journey of Evan Hansen, a socially-awkward high school senior struggling to feel accepted by others and himself. After being mistaken as the secret friend of a recently deceased classmate, Evan starts living out the lie to try and find the life he’s always wanted.

Overall, the movie was an enjoyable experience, even if it felt like it dragged on during some parts. Now that the story surpasses a single theater stage, the movie was able to include a variety of new shots and scenes that could only be captured by film. The sequence during “Sincerely, Me” was hilarious and brought some much needed energy to the storyline. During the song “The Anonymous Ones,” the framing does a good job of illustrating the isolation that many people struggling with mental illness can feel.

However, during other songs, the camera direction felt bland and didn’t do anything creative with the shots they used. Certain songs focused primarily on a single setting with one character moving around while everybody else largely remains in one place. On a theater stage, that’s to be expected. But on a wide screen, it left me thinking “can we please see something different now?” Especially

But these more “boring” moments were saved by the principal cast. Every performance was solid and there was never a moment where it felt like they were struggling to keep up with the rest of the group. As a matter of fact, there were times where I felt like they had to hold back on certain songs because singing to a camera and microphone is different than singing to an entire Broadway theater. Amandla Stenberg’s performance as Alana Beck had to have been my favorite. Not only did she have a beautiful voice, it felt like she was able to bring enough emotion to a dramatic scene without it ever coming across as being corny.

Funnily enough, Ben Platt’s performance as Evan Hansen might be the one that deserves the most critique. As it has been pointed out before, he looks a little too old to be playing the part of a high school student. But at the same time, no one else that plays a high schooler is actually around the appropriate age, with Stenberg being the closest at 22-years-old.

Platt was the original Evan Hansen on Broadway and was brought onto the film because it was hard to imagine the part being played by anybody else. But nobody else had been given the same treatment. The closest comparison would be Colton Ryan who played Connor Murphy, as he was the understudy for the same character, Evan Hansen and Jared Kleinman on Broadway.

Platt is a fine enough actor, but there were times where it came across as him overacting compared to everybody else. On a theater stage, where a performer has to make exaggerated expressions in order to be seen by the entire audience, this is perfectly fine. But it is extremely uncomfortable to see his crying face up close and some of his “nervous tics” felt almost too exaggerated.

But performances and camera work aside, as a fan of the musical, the biggest shortcoming of the film is how it reframes the plot of “Dear Evan Hansen” and the audience’s perception of Evan himself.

Two of the most noticeable songs that were cut are “Does Anybody Have a Map?” and “Good For You.” With the former being the original opening number, it’s meant to highlight the struggles of the mothers of the story in trying to parent their troubled sons and figure out what they should do. With the second one, it’s meant to showcase the fact that Evan’s actions during the course of the story are selfish, harmful and something he feels guilty over.

The ending itself deviates from the original Broadway ending as well. Although heartwarming, it does feel like it “redeems” him a little more than what was intended by the original playwrights. I did enjoy it, but it would be understandable if others felt it undermined the impact of the original play.

“Dear Evan Hansen” has its problems, some of which will be more noticeable if you’re a fan of the musical. But the performances were solid, the music is fantastic and the message it delivers is one that now, more than ever, feels relevant to us all. Check it out if you’re interested. Just make sure to bring some tissues with you.