‘Dear Evan Hansen’ Review: You (Don’t) Have a Boyfriend

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The musical “Dear Evan Hansen” makes an awkward leap from the Broadway stage to the big screen and is the story of a liar, an accomplished fabulist who uses the self-harm of a troubled classmate to gain popularity. Yet the movie (in line with its Tony Award winning predecessor, which I haven’t seen, I suppose) wants us not only to sympathize with this character, but ultimately to forgive him. That is a very big question.

It’s not just that Ben Platt, who will soon turn 28 and repeat his stage role as Evan, is as unconvincing as a high school graduate as John Travolta is in “Grease”. Seized with crippling social anxiety, Evan is a sweaty mess, his twitching eyes and curled up body language repelling other students as he sings gleefully about feeling invisible. (The songs are mostly by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.) When an outcast, the fugitive Connor Murphy (Colton Ryan), in possession of a self-addressed letter from Evans, takes his own life, Connor’s mother and stepfather devastated by Evans ( Amy Adams and Danny Pino) ​​believe Evan was Connor’s best friend.

Instead of correcting this simple misunderstanding, Evan begins to enjoy his benefits, even going so far as to get an acquaintance (an ironic Nik Dodani) to establish an email exchange between Connor and himself. Welcomed to the luxurious Murphy home, he approaches Connor’s sister Zoe (Kaitlyn Dever), whom he has a crush on. The students visit him at school and his speech at Connor’s memorial goes viral. With every beautification, the attention and the social media likes increase; Only in the trusting eyes of Connor’s mother do we see the cruelty of Evans’ deception.

Written by Steven Levenson and awkwardly directed by Stephen Chbosky (who is no stranger to teen drama), Dear Evan Hansen is a troubling work, one that constructs a devious, shallow, and sometimes comedic plot about adolescent mental health problems. The dialogues, interspersed with hilariously straight song lyrics, are trite; Still, the story useful highlights the tell-tale twists and turns of the internet and the way social media exploits tragedy. In one revealing scene, students pose for selfies in Connor’s floral locker, conveniently forgetting that this was someone they had previously disliked and ostracized.

Despite its elongated maturity and emotional obsessional structure (it will undoubtedly cry), this quirky picture has a few bright spots, including a glowing Julianne Moore as Evans’ overworked single mother. Moore may go away for much of the movie, but her only song is so truly moving that it just underscores the emotional artistry that surrounds it. Also of note is Amandla Stenberg, who plays the resident school activist and moral conscience who brings a casual nostalgia to a song about anonymity that she co-wrote. But the film’s most wasted chance lies in Diver’s nuanced portrayal of Zoe, whose exhaustion over the family’s obsessive attention to Connor’s needs underscores the burden of being the sibling of a troubled child. When she admits that she is afraid of Connor, the moment is pushed aside because she too is deceived by Evans’ fairytale portrait of a loving brother.

Devious and manipulative, “Dear Evan Hansen” makes the villain a victim and grief an exploitable weak point. It made me shiver.

Dear Evan Hansen
Rated PG-13 for troubling issues and shameful behavior. Running time: 2 hours 17 minutes. In theaters.


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