I hate to have pre-conceived judgements going into movies but I knew weeks before seeing this movie, that this movie was going to be a train wreck from beginning to end. When the first trailer for the movie dropped and audiences got to see a preview of how Ben Platt was going to look, sound and act in this movie, it goes without saying that there was going to be a huge uphill battle trying to pull anything good from this movie. Yes, in the end, there was very little to like but at least there are some very very small glimmers of enjoyment that can be gleaned from this experience.
Dear Evan Hansen is based on the 2015 musical that went on to win six Tony Awards in 2017 ( a fact that absolutely baffles me and convinces me that Broadway audiences all suffer from some sort of communal delusion about this play). The story follows the title character, Evan Hansen (Ben Platt), who struggles from depression and anxiety. He writes letters to himself about his troubles and conveniently prints it off in very crowded library. Connor Murphy (Colton Ryan), a social outcast who suffers from drug addiction and anger issues, steals this note and proceeds to die by suicide that night. Connor’s parents find this letter and are convinced that Evan was his only friend in school. Evan then lies to his family and fabricates a false reality where they were friends so he can date Connor’s sister, Zoe (Kaitlyn Dever). He eventually gets caught and Benn Platt cries a lot (his sizzle reel for next years Golden Globe Awards but more likely Razzie Awards). The movie ends and I guess he learned his lesson and doesn’t go to jail? I don’t know what crime he should be charged with but Evan Hansen should absolutely be in jail by the end of this movie.
In preparation for seeing this movie, I downloaded the soundtrack to the original Broadway musical. At first, I didn’t think the music was very good but, similar to dying of hypothermia, I got used to to it and let the feelings overtake me. While not even close to being my favorite musical songs, I did like a handful of songs from the soundtrack and was very curious how they would pull them off on the big screen. The short answer is that they didn’t pull them off and they somehow made the songs even worse!
Ben Platt, who is *technically* a good singer somehow manages to butcher the best song from the musical (“Waving through a Window”). While this song comes off as epic and grandiose in a recording booth or broadway stage, it whimpers when sung on a film set in a cluttered room and subsequently next to hundreds of extras as the song proceeds. This starts a terrible precedent for anyone excited to at least see how their favorite songs are pulled off in this film.
There are a few songs that end up working in the movie. “Sincerely, Me” which was always the silly, comic relief and does translate well to the big screen and does a offer a respite from the overwhelmingly melodramatic story. “You Will Be Found” a song with a genuinely good message (that later gets muddled by the rest of the movie) and is sung well by Ben Platt and the chorus because he is on a stage and not singing to 3 people in a room like every other song. Finally, “The Anonymous Ones”, one of two original songs written for this film adaptation, is a well conceived song sung by Amandla Stenberg (who also carries every scene she appears in).
I never like walking into a movie expecting to hate it. I did not have high expectations for this movie, but I at least wanted to enjoy the songs, that I’ve grown to sort of like, be performed well on screen. Unfortunately, the combination of Ben Platt looking like a 33 year old child predator (allegedly looking like a child predator for legal reasons) and the film being 2 hours and 17 minutes too long, I can’t recommend this even to laugh at, and trust me there is some great unintentional comedy to behold here. Listen to the original soundtrack and ignore the mostly problematic story and maybe watch Midnight Mass on Netflix this week, which looks dope as shit and will probably we a better use of your time.
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