Have you ever felt so alone that you were sure no one cared about you? Human beings simply are not built to lead lives completely alone. And while most of us have made wonderful connections with friends, there are those that for the longest stretch took a while just to make one connection. It’s important to remind ourselves that many people had a very difficult time expressing themselves and communicating and had no idea how to make any connection. One of the central themes with this film happens to be the burdens that people keep to themselves while putting on a façade for the world to think everyone is okay when they’re not.
The story of Dear Evan Hansen is a mixture of many items — mental health, suicide, abusive behavior, loneliness, and compassion. Based on the hit Broadway musical of the same name, Dear Evan Hansen stars Ben Platt, reprising the role that won him a Tony award. Other notable members of the ensemble include Kaitlyn Dever, Julianne Moore, and Amy Adams.
Evan Hansen is a socially awkward high school student that suffers with anxiety and depression and the main narrative finds himself hopelessly lost in a series of unfortunate circumstances in which he is masquerading as something he is not. Hanson stumbles to a position he’s always wanted to be in and it’s all because of a lie. And like the original source material, this lie just continues to get bigger and bigger. There is a lot of hullabaloo about how this film exactly handles its main character with this particular deception, and frankly part of the blame for this outrage happens to be with the filmmakers not really attempting to expand on the source material and perhaps improve this precarious situation. While I personally found myself to be very much empathetic toward Evan Hansen’s situation, I can definitely understand how people would find him to be fundamentally unsympathetic as a character. I will say, I do not think this character in any way, shape, or form ends up being completely absolved of his sins as some would like to suggest.
The film tackles with a protagonist that does something, that in the eyes of many, will simply be unforgivable and impossible to relate to. What will be fascinating is to see how audiences react to that kind of protagonist and how much empathy they have for him. There were a lot of tears shed by the characters in this film, some emotional moments to be had but there was just something missing in it for me where I couldn’t really connect all the way. I’m really struggling to figure out what that was exactly. I would say it’s a big problem when you are really trying to create an environment of emotional vulnerability to share with the viewers only for me not to be emotional.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this film is the sheer caliber of talent that was amassed with this cast. All of the actors are really giving their all to make this adaptation really pop on the big screen. Moore and Adams are seasoned veterans at this kind of material and are always great in anything they're in. And as for Platt and Dever, they seemed to have no issue recapturing the dynamic of their characters and acting in front of a camera instead of a live audience. Much ado has been made about Platt’s appearance as somehow being so old to play the part of a teenager that it verges on parody. Aside from that very ugly wig he’s wearing, he is a brilliant performer with a vocal ability that so rarely comes around.
As to the matter of what in fact is the best component of the movie, really isn’t anything new to the film as it of course originated on Broadway. The music is simply phenomenal, it sounds very Broadway to the point where you think you’re watching a play instead of a film. And that can definitely become the detriment of some peoples’ viewing experience. However, some particular musical numbers had some difficulty transferring to the new medium. I’ll admit to being disappointed with some of the best songs in this movie being very much undermined by the staging and at times very odd blocking. Some of these songs feature very big vocal moments that very much work for the stage, but the setting of a lot of these numbers really clashed with Platt, especially dialing up the vocals to an 11 out of 10.
Taking a look at the entirety of the film, I feel this is the kind of movie that general audiences will respond to on the positive end of the spectrum. And that is in large part due to the wonderful cast and the great music. It should be noted that this in no way feels like a traditional musical, there’s no dancing, it doesn’t come with the big flashy costumes so it should be more accessible for those who are not into that genre. On the whole, I found this to be a very enjoyable film, with very notable flaws and setbacks but still entertaining all the same.