Dear Awkward Hansen

Kayla Funk, Staff Writer

In today’s world it is becoming more and more common to bring stage to screen with movie musicals. They are more convenient and cheaper to see as well as bringing “theater” to audiences that may shy away from the performing arts. But it will always be argued that the musical itself is better on stage and live instead of awkwardly trying to mix two styles of entertainment. This is most recently evident in the audience’s reaction to the release of the movie adaptation of Dear Evan Hansen, which hit theaters on September 24th. 

Dear Evan Hansen follows the story of a high school senior with intense anxiety and depression who is given the assignment from his therapist to write letters to himself. While writing a letter in the school library (headed “Dear Evan Hansen” and ending with “Sincerely, your best and most dearest friend, Me.”), it is intercepted by high school outcast, Connor Murphy. Connor takes the letter from him, sending Evan into an anxious spiral and he begins to prepare himself to see Connor the following day to beg him to not release the letter to their school. But, instead of getting the chance to confront Connor, he is called to the principal’s office and is greeted by Connor’s parents who inform him that Connor took his own life. On top of that the Murphys hand Evan back his letter which they think is Connor’s suicide note. Evan fails to correct this misunderstanding and begins to pretend he and Connor were friends. He begins to create a web of lies that ultimately catch up to him in the end. 

The initial reaction of the movie musical was the blaring opinion that Ben Platt (the original Evan on broadway) was too old to play the role of high school senior, Evan Hansen. Although it is true that Platt, who is 27, is too old to realistically play a teenager, the entire cast was made up of people over 21 playing high schoolers, so this was not the biggest issue. What made this movie musical so harshly judged was its inability to mesh screen acting and broadway vocals. This left the movie looking and sounding awkward.

When an actor is on stage performing live, everything has to be exaggerated (big movements, showing obvious and overboard emotions); when an actor is performing on screen, emotional cues can be much more subtle. It is very obvious to the viewer who is a screen actor and who is a stage actor. Platt performs with obvious and intense emotion whereas his co-star (Zoe Murphy played by Kaitlyn Dever) performs with much less intensity. It leaves the scenes looking like they are from two different films with no real flow.

Although the movie was not what it had the potential to be, I would like to highlight an enjoyable moment that momentarily had me thinking about “Wow…maybe this could turn the movie around!” (Ultimately, it did not, but A+ for trying). One song in Dear Evan Hansen is titled “Sincerely Me.” In my opinion, it is pretty much the only lighthearted song in the score (even though the back story makes it incredibly messed up). The performance for this number was captivating, colorful and entertaining. It was easily my favorite part of the film. 

Overall the movie was not good. It turned scenes that had audiences sobbing into scenes that had the audience hysterically laughing. There were several amazing songs cut and too much awkward dialogue about gluten free apple pie added in. It did not come close to achieving the beautiful message and performance that was conveyed on stage. I would rate this film 4/10 gluten free apple pies.      

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