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Dear Evan Hansen
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Stephen Chbosky
scr Steven Levenson
prd Marc Platt, Adam Siegel
with Ben Platt, Kaitlyn Dever, Julianne Moore, Amy Adams, Amandla Stenberg, Daniel Pino, Nik Dodani, Colton Ryan, DeMarius Copes, Liz Kate, Zoey Luna, Isaac Powell
release US 24.Sep.21,
21/US Universal 2h17
TORONTO FILM FEST
Is it streaming?
Playwright Steven Levenson adapts his hit Broadway musical for the big screen, exposing some problems in the narrative. The story takes on some very big themes using a plot and characters that are deliberately flawed. And the swelling, over-serious tone feels a bit much when shot in close-up. But an able cast evokes raw emotion, and the intimate songs by Justin Paul and Benj Pasek are lovely.
A high school loner, Evan (Platt) just wishes someone would see him for who he is. His overworked single mother Heidi (Moore) has no idea how deep his anxiety runs. And when fellow outcast Connor (Ryan) commits suicide, a series of misunderstandings leave his parents (Adams and Pino) thinking that Evan was Connor's best pal. Trying to help, Evan goes along with this, digging deeper into the lie with the help of family friend Jared (Dodani). He also unexpectedly becomes close to Connor's sister Zoe (Dever), the girl he has long had a crush on.
As Evan's lie spins out of control, bringing comfort to Connor's family and the entire student body, he has no idea how to get out of it. This increases the stakes riding on the moment when the other shoe drops, which isn't easy to watch, especially since Evan has been diagnosed as mentally troubled. That said, the squirm-inducing scenes are a remarkable depiction of the topic, extending to other characters who have their own serious issues to contend with, including educational pressures, financial stress and grief.
Platt may be 10 years too old, but his expressive baby face and timid physicality are perfect for Evan. Emotion surges through each moment, along with glimpses of hope as this messy situation reveals some possibilities. His scenes with Dever are strong, understated and edgy. And both Adams and Moore get some show-stopping moments of their own as very different caring mothers. Side characters are less developed, but Pino and Stenberg (as a class leader) are able to dig a little deeper.
There are several story elements that could have been streamlined to cut down the film's epic length and zero in more clearly on the characters. And some of the huge dramatic moments are too broad for the camera. But the themes are so important, and the script and songs are packed with simply gorgeous observations that are challenging, affirming and yearningly hopeful. It's not a film that offers glib answers, but it provokes us to be more observant of the people around us.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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