If you're unaware of the plot of Dear Evan Hansen, I'll vaguely fill you in: a high school student called Connor takes his own life, and Evan Hansen pretends that he was friends with him so that his family have good memories about their son. Evan gets caught up in a series of lies, and fair to say, it probably won't end up well. Looking back on the plot, I'm not sure if it was the right move to make it a film. Sometimes musicals don't translate well to the big screen, and I'd say that Dear Evan Hansen would probably fall into that category. I could be proved wrong, and I hope I'm proved wrong.
The film itself has a star-studded cast: Ben Platt, Kaitlyn Denver, Julianne Moore and Amy Adams are to name but a few. Paired with the writer and director of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky, this had so much potential. I had hesitations about Ben Platt, the original Broadway Evan Hansen, being re-cast as the 17-year-old titular star at 27. Even towards the end of his Broadway run, he was starting to look a little too old, but I guess that's the difference between a film and a musical: far away on a stage, someone may not look as old. However, being filmed close-up with surrounding cast members that do look age-appropriate can be quite jarring. After seeing the trailer, I'm not sure what they did to Platt because they managed to make him look older- how is that possible with a makeup team? Take a note from the upcoming In The Heights movie: Usnavi De La Vega isn't played by Lin Manuel-Miranda, he's now the piragua guy.
I understand why Chbosky wanted Ben Platt, but I just don't think it was the right move. Platt should have made a cameo, and the role of Evan Hansen should have gone to someone new. Or, there have been previous Evans that still look age-appropriate, such as Andrew Barth Feldman who is only 19 years old and is currently on High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. After listening to largely only Platt's renditions of the songs, it would have been nice to give someone else the opportunity to have their version professionally recorded.
Yes, the musical is about friendship, but it's more so about mental health, grieving and the turmoil that comes with it.
However, unlike many people online, the strange casting isn't my only gripe. After watching the trailer, I feel like the entire tone is wrong. I'm not sure how to word it, but the film feels... too cutesy? I know that Chbosky can perfectly strike the balance between uplifting and soul-crushingly sad, but I can't help but feel like the trailer makes what Evan Hansen did look 'cute' and not something very, very messed up. It looks like a sweet coming-of-age movie, and whilst the musical also has this undertone of personal growth, I'm scared that the film will put everything else on the backburner to fit the commercial narrative. Yes, the musical is about friendship, but it's more so about mental health, grieving and the turmoil that comes with it. I'm just not sure how this film will turn out, and I'm genuinely scared they're going to change the ending.
I'm happy that people who can't afford to see a production of it can finally watch an accessible film. However, I just wish that they went the Hamilton route and released a filmed OBC performance if they were so desperate to reprise Platt for the role. Just because musical films are making a comeback doesn't mean that every musical needs an adaptation, nor do their fans particularly want one.