Image credit: Universal Pictures
The much anticipated Dear Evan Hansen movie adaptation arrived in theatres on September 24, 2021 and has so far deemed mixed reviews.
Many theatre kids rejoiced at the news of the Tony Award winning musical of the same name taking to the big screen, hoping for a movie musical adaptation to not be a flop after Cats and the new Cinderella movie on Amazon. But since the initial announcement of the movie’s release, everyone’s excitement turned into nervousness.
Dear Evan Hansen is a story about a high schooler who suffers from social anxiety. The title character Evan Hansen has no friends and a hard home life with a missing father and a mom who is never at home because she’s working so she can provide for her family. Over the summer, Evan broke his arm, but when he gets to school, no one signs his cast. No one, except fellow loner Connor Murphy. Evan writes letters to himself as an assignment for his therapy (Hence Dear Evan Hansen), but Connor takes this letter away. A few days later, Evan is told that Connor killed himself and the only thing found on him when that happened was the letter Evan wrote, with Connor’s parents believing that it was Connor’s suicide note. The story follows Evan as he gets caught up in a lie and tries to follow through.
Dear Evan Hansen is a show that explores some seriously hard themes. Themes like suicide, loss, and the overall feeling of being alone. Evan follows through with the lie that he and Connor were friends and finds the Murphys as a new family, a family Evan never got to have. Evan then falls victim to his own lies and begins lying to himself because the reality he fabricated with Connor was better than the life he had.
Connor’s suicide affects not just Evan, but viewers get an insight into how this affected the Murphys as well. His parents struggle with not being enough, with his mom being in denial that Connor was depressed, and his dad refusing to face the fact that Connor is dead. His younger sister, Zoe, deals with the fact that she isn’t mourning her brother like she is supposed to, because they weren’t close and had no bond. Her song, “Requiem” shines a light on these things, and the movie does a good job of showing its themes.
While the story itself shows promise, there have been mixed reviews regarding the film’s other attributes. Ben Platt, who originated the title role of Evan on Broadway, reprised his role in the movie, but he’s 28 years old, playing a 17 year old. Many fans of the show were in uproar over this because they felt he was too old to be playing a teenager, and while the familiarity of having the original Broadway actor was there, he was the only one to reprise his role from the stage. The film tried to make Platt look younger for the role, after seeing it, it is clear that its efforts were in vain. People commented on his hunched shoulders and craning neck, which made him seem less awkward but more creepy.
Theatre lovers complain at how the movie cut out a lot of songs and changed too many things. I watched this with a friend who knows the Broadway production very well and she would point out every difference that was there. The songs that were cut were songs that were important to the story, specifically the opening number, “Anybody Have A Map” sung by both mothers which gives an insight into Connor and Evans similarities.
Dear Evan Hansen is a show turned movie that could have been done really well, but the directorial choices and casting made it turn out not so good. While it was not as bad as Cats, it is nowhere near as good as movie musicals like Rent, Chicago, or Grease.