Cert – 12, Run-time – 2 hours 17 minutes, Director – Stephen Chbosky
When another student takes his life, Evan Hansen (Ben Platt) finds himself forging a friendship to console the grieving family (Kaitlyn Dever, Amy Adams, Danny Pino) when Connor is found with one of Evan’s therapy letters to himself.
The feature adaptation for Tony award winning Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen has largely plugged the award winning stage production in its marketing, and particularly the fact that it’s a musical with its seemingly fan-favourite opening number. However, sitting down to watch the film it seems apparent that over the course of the over two hour run-time that a number of the songs have been cut out in the adaptation. Generally the film doesn’t overly feel like a complete musical – particularly with the rather static feel of almost every song. While not bursting into a dance number isn’t a bad thing you do begin to want more action in the songs instead of people simply sitting or standing for three or four minutes while staring at each other and singing. It particularly removes something from a number of the third act encounters where the songs begin to feel longer and with much less impact, partly down to the stationary nature in which they come across.
The near lack of songs also perhaps makes the actions of the titular character (Ben Platt – in makeup that seems to age him up more than it does make him look like a teenager, not helped by the fact that the lighting often glaringly defines the makeup) more unforgivable. Initially alongside his only friend, Jared (Nik Dodani), Evan fakes a number of emails to make it seem as if he had a strong friendship with distant student Connor (Colton Ryan). This is after Connor takes his life and is found with a therapy letter Evan wrote to himself earlier that day before a second altercation with Connor, whose mother (Amy Adams) and step-father (Danny Pino) now want to know about their son and his friendship with this stranger.
It’s clear that what Evan’s doing is wrong, he even knows it himself. However, over time it feels as if this element of the film is glossed away. Things are generally watchable, even if not all of the elements completely balance well together, during the first hour. However, as things move on into the second hour it feels as if the narrative itself gets lost in exchange for throwing various different points and elements down the hole which has already been dug in the hope of making it deeper. It causes the run-time of a long film to be pushed and loses any form of connection for the viewer as Evan becomes even more of an unforgiveable character – particularly as his relationship with Connor’s grieving sister (Kaitlyn Dever in a quiet yet strong performance considering what she’s been given) grows from his too-awkward-to-approach attitude at the start of the film. Somehow managing to further echo a number of teen/ high-school movie clichés which are scattered throughout a number of the earlier scenes where the film feels slightly unsure of its initial tone.
The film occasionally shows glimpses of the bereaved family grieving and their different ways of coping, alongside the arguments that emerge from it. However, they seem so brief that they almost come across as underdeveloped and another attempt to create another layer of drama within the narrative. A narrative which is filled with various hints and glimpses that don’t really carry much further. Yet, for a film busy with such glimpses and moments Dear Evan Hansen manages to feel somewhat empty with ideas.
Things continue to dive deeper down the hole that has been dug in a repetitious spiral to the point where it’s hard to possibly reconnect with the film again. When taking into consideration the lack of repercussions or reprimanding, aside from some brief personal dealings, faced by Evan things feel particularly odd. As if his awkwardness and anxiety are being used as the reasoning for everything that has happened to him. This weight is largely felt in the second hour of the piece as the main point is ‘look how far everything has gone’. Turning a not-as-bad-as-you-might-think film, even if not everything properly clicks with the viewer in its state of slight imbalance, into something of complete disconnect with the central character and the events that he dishonestly forces himself into. For a film that has advertised itself as one for the outsider in all of us it certainly manages to shut its central figure out from the audience with both his actions and the way that the film generally treats and handles him.
While starting off on watchable, if slightly wobbly, ground Dear Evan Hansen soon dives into a deep hole that’s hard for it’s central character to get out of. Becoming as repetitive and static as its few lengthy musical numbers.