TIFF ’21: ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Dear Evan Hansen,

This is a movie musical that should have stayed a stage production. Like many that came before it, Dear Evan Hansen, suffers from the overly long runtime and loses its original message. Some musicals do not fit the screen and that’s okay. I have never watched the Broadway production and I now regret not listening to the original soundtrack beforehand. Apart from the fact that Ben Platt does not look like a teenager, the other actors were miscast. Our dear Amy Adams gave a performance that just did not work for some reason. I couldn’t help but sit there and say, “Oh, Amy. Where did this come from?”

First and foremost, I did not know how dark this story was. I decided to go in blind and boy, was I sent for a loop. I almost got whiplash over the amount of dark turns Evan took with zero consequences. The whole musical is a fabricated lie with a meaningful, heartfelt story about serious mental health issues. This is a serious topic that gets stuck in this tornado of over-singing and melodramatic moments that do not work for the screen. It is beyond frustrating to watch a movie and actually get secondhand embarrassment from the lead character. Not because of his social anxiety but because of the poor decisions he made.

Again, the songs are so well-written. Amandla Stenberg made me weep with ‘Anonymous Ones’ and that’s about it. The issue with this film, and quite frankly, the musical itself, is that the subject matter is too serious to actually create this mess of a story on top of it. This may sound like I hate it, but that’s a strong word. There were some moving moments, and every time I would get into the story, a poor choice was made. It really is a rollercoaster of emotions that I don’t think the general audience is ready for.

Dear Evan Hansen has emotional songs, a very strong performance from Ben Platt and Kaitlyn Dever, but sadly the script was lacking. There is something so simple about a stage production that can get lost when translating to the grand scale of cinema. There were editing choices that didn’t work and camerawork that really ruined some strong, emotional moments. If the musical is dear to your heart, you may appreciate it, but for someone who went in blind, this wasn’t made to work on screen with this subject matter.

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