Dear Evan Hansen

  • 25 Sep - 01 Oct, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

Evan Hansen is a socially awkward, insecure 17-year-old who starts his first day of senior year with a written pep talk to himself, an assignment from this therapist. The note is intercepted off the printer by classmate Connor Murphy (Colton Ryan), a fellow outcast who interprets the letter’s mention of his sister Zoey (Dever), Evan’s crush, as a ploy to mock him. That is Evan and Connor’s only real-life interaction; Connor takes his life and is found with the letter, which his parents interpret as a suicide note to Evan. Stammering, desperate to please and feel valued, Evan parlays the theory into a full-fledged fantasy of friendship – one that endears him to Connor’s shellshocked mother, Cynthia (Adams) and stepfather Larry (Danny Pino), draws him into a romantic relationship with Zoey, and distances him from his overworked single mother Heidi (Moore). It also brings validation, when his false invocation of Connor’s memory goes viral, and hard-charging classmate Alana (Stenberg) creates a memorial mental health awareness campaign around one of Evan’s fake anecdotes.

The distance of the stage and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s enveloping, genuinely moving soundtrack allowed the musical’s darker, borderline creepy elements – suggesting blame for Connor’s death, Evan’s reincarnation of Connor through forged emails, the fact that the protagonist exploits a near-stranger’s suicide for popularity – to fade into the background of a great show. One can suspend moral judgment of Evan, firmly the sympathetic underdog, when his motivations, awkwardness and mistakes are routinely swept into absorbing song. That’s much harder to do when you’re staring, in hyper-definition closeup, into the face of the grieving mother, played with paper-thin fragility by Adams, as Evan lies about his friendship with her dead son.

Still, if you can get set aside the discomfort of Evan’s deceit and Platt’s ghoulish appearance, Dear Evan Hansen is a decently enjoyable movie musical, especially if you like the soundtrack, which remains magnetic.

It’s not the film’s fault that the medium highlights the story’s inherent stacking of the deck in favour of Evan with an ickiness the musical could maybe avoid. We cannot say the same for the casting of Platt as Evan. The movie asks the audience to not look at two elephants in the room, and unfortunately, no amount of soaring music can relieve that heavy a burden.

– Compilation