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“Dear Evan Hansen,” the movie rendition of the award-winning 2016 Broadway musical, has just hit theatres, stirring up mixed opinions.
Main character Evan Hansen, played by Ben Platt, attempts to console a family who has just lost their son, Connor, whom they suspect to have been close friends with Evan, all while he battles the limitations of his anxiety and depression.
But musical lovers beware, the movie takes a slightly newer take on the story. Utilizing the ability for more elaborate settings than what a stage will allow, “Dear Evan Hansen” gives a tour of Evan’s life, spending more time with supporting characters and delving more into the vulnerable moments of Evan’s social anxiety.
The film score varies greatly from that of the musical. Songs like “Anybody Have a Map?, “Disappear,” “Good for You” and “To Break in a Glove,” were not included in the movie but were replaced with “The Anonymous Ones,” sung by Amandla Stenberg, and “A Little Closer,” sung by Colton Ryan.
These new songs brought greater attention to Stenberg, playing Alana, and Ryan, playing Connor, for whom the musical provided much less background and character development.
The greatest strength to these pieces is their continuity with the songs from the original show. Both the vocal performance and the supporting soundtrack reflect patterns and musical elements from other songs throughout the movie that blend the pieces together to make the story whole.
“The Anonymous Ones,” however, very closely resembles the song “Disappear” from the Broadway soundtrack, which is slightly disappointing considering the song was supposed to bring a newer perspective to the story.
But the other songs have their problems too.
Pieces like “Only Us” and “Requiem,” also part of the Broadway soundtrack, arguably demand the most from lead character Zoe Murphy, played by Kaitlyn Dever. However, Dever’s singing was weak, and she lacked the experience to perform the song well.
Dever is one of the several cast members with little to no training in vocal performance. Amy Adams, playing Connor’s mother, and Danny Pino, playing Connor’s father, also lack singing experience.
“Requiem” especially suffered from this fact, as it spans a very large range of notes that require a very strong, powerful voice, and Dever simply did not have the power.
But the emotion evoked by the story and Platt’s performance salvage some of the flawed vocals to bring the movie together.
The movie focuses heavily on Evan’s social anxiety, an option unavailable in the Broadway production due to time and staging limitations.
It frames shots of Evan in the middle of a crowded hallway or a tiny bathroom stall as he faces his anxiety. This camera angle focuses all attention on Evan, tuning out all other movement in the scene, placing the audience in his exact position of discomfort and disconnection from his surroundings.
Platt breaks down the details of his character’s emotions. Every one of his acting choices fits neatly into the context of the story, but it pushes the boundary of expectation.
His performance demonstrates every experience a person with severe anxiety is susceptible to, making it all seem real and relatable. This communicates the goal of the film: to tell an emotional story that can connect with people and draw attention to an often understood emotion.
Overall, the story’s emotional element projects clearly and powerfully. Its interpretation and presentation of what anxiety looks like is a must-see because it offers valuable insight into the world of mental health struggles. Though the movie has its pitfalls, it is worth the time.