Film adaptations of musicals have certainly taken off in the past few years, such as Hamilton last year and In The Heights this summer. Now we’re going to see a movie adaption of the smash hit musical Dear Evan Hansen, which won several Tony Awards and will continue its Broadway run after it resumes production after the Covid-19 delay. Evan Hansen, a high school student with Social Anxiety Disorder, has a therapeutic self-intended letter stolen by a classmate named Connor Murphy, who later dies by suicide. Connor's family mistakes the letter as a letter sent to Evan by Connor. Evan then inserts himself into the boy's past, leading to a series of lies and confrontational events.
Ben Platt portrayed the original Evan Hansen in the show’s Broadway run, and he reprises his role for the movie musical (a decision that led to some controversy). The movie musical was directed by Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and also features Amy Adams, Kaitlyn Dever, Julianne Moore, Amandla Stenberg, Nik Dodani, Danny Pino, and Colton Ryan. Dear Evan Hansen will premiere in theaters on September 24, but critics have started to share their official reviews, so let's check them out.
Let’s start with the home team. CinemaBlend’s Corey Chichizola enjoyed Dear Evan Hansen, especially Ben Platt’s return to the titular role. Platt won a Tony Award for originating Evan Hansen on Broadway, and Chichizola argued that the actor killed it this time around, too. He also noted that this film iteration allows for viewers to see even more details in the actor’s face, which helps to immerse us in his journey. He also really enjoyed the performances from the supporting cast members, though he noted that some of them were underused, which is a result of the musical having to be condensed into a shorter runtime. Overall, here’s what he said:
Steve Pond from The Wrap also commended Platt’s star quality as Evan Hansen, but he also praised the other characters like Stenberg, Dever, Adams, and Moore. While Pond noted that the narrative is a little too messy at times and that it could have gone with a more nuanced approach to addressing mental health issues, he argued that you will still enjoy the movie musical overall, saying:
Michael Rechtshaffen from The Hollywood Reporter had a somewhat mixed opinion of the drama. He really enjoyed the acting from the main characters (definitely sensing a pattern in these reviews) and the beautiful moments of human connection the film offers. But he argued that those intimate moments too often bump up against distancing cutaways and music video cliches that take away from the impact. Rechtshaffen thought director Chbosky leaned too much into the drama formula aspect, saying:
IndieWire’s Tina Hassannia did not have a very positive review of Dear Evan Hansen. She criticized Chbosky’s direction, such as making Platt’s larger-than-life characterization of Evan Hansen too pronounced, as that affectation works well on stage, but looks too “creepy” on screen. Hassania also noted that the mix of dialogue and song was too choppy. She argued that unfortunately, the music is what will make the drama lose the audience, saying:
Valerie Complex from Deadline also had many criticisms of the movie musical, though she did praise the singing, particularly from Amandla Stenberg. But Complex considered Dear Evan Hansen “terrible,” criticizing the storytelling and the shallow statements on community and class structure. She also argued that it was a problematic choice to force the audience to feel sympathy for a compulsive liar whose mental illness is exploited. Overall, Complex noted:
Well, those were pretty mixed reviews. You'll be able to check out the teen drama soon, as Dear Evan Hansen debuts in theaters only on September 24th. Until then, plan your next movie-going experience with our 2021 new movie release guide.
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