By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
I could kick myself now for not catching the stage production of “Dear Evan Hansen” when it played in Sacramento last January right before the pandemic hit and shut everything down.
However, I’m glad I caught this big-screen adaptation of the 2016 Tony and Grammy Award winning Broadway musical because “Dear Evan Hansen"
is excellent. Maybe it’s a good thing that I can’t compare the movie to the stage play and am reviewing the film on its own merits. There are plenty of them. Although, I’m sure I would have loved the play too.
“Dear Evan Hansen” director Stephen Chbosky
has a good handle on navigating through teen angst having captured it so well in the 2012 movie “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and now here working alongside screenwriter Steven Levenson (“Fosse/Verdon”).
In “Dear Evan Hansen,” Ben Platt (“Pitch Perfect”) reprises his beloved role as the socially awkward and anxiety ridden high schooler Evan Hansen. He has plenty of emotional and mental issues and despite being bullied and teased at school, his heart always seems in the right place.
It’s at school where Evan runs into Connor Murphy (a terrific Colton Ryan, “Uncle Frank,”). Their encounter winds up changing Evan’s life after he learns that Connor committed suicide.
Connor’s mother Cynthia (Amy Adams, “Hillbilly Elegy”) and stepfather Larry (Danny Pino, TV’s “The Good Fight”) reach out to Evan when they find an emotional letter that Connor left behind. They’re just happy that Connor had a friend. Or so they think. Of course, Evan can’t bear to tell them--or anyone for that matter-- that he and Connor weren’t friends and that he wrote the letter to himself for a therapy session. Instead, Evan goes along with the white lie. He even keeps it a secret from Connor’s sister Zoe (Kaitlyn Dever, TV’s “Last Man Standing”) who he really likes. Her family has totally embraced Evan now which surprises his hard-working nurse mother Heidi (an excellent Julianne Moore, TV’s Lisey’s Story”).
Then things spiral way out of control. So much so, that Evan can’t keep up the ruse any longer.
In between the film’s darkness and drama, is a collection of rousing songs that are delivered with angelic perfection by Platt starting with the bouncy “Waving Through a Window” and the heartfelt, “The Anonymous Ones,” performed and co-written by Amandla Stenberg (“The Hate U Give”) who plays Alana Beck, a school activist and leader who is organizing a Mental Health Awareness memorial on behalf of Connor. Other gems include: “A Little Closer,” “You Will Be Found” and “So Big/So Small.”
The raw and honest emotion that Platt and really the entire supporting cast brings is beyond touching. “Dear Evan Hansen” sincerely moved me.
Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays at 6:20 p.m. on radio station KFBK 93.1 FM and 1530 AM.
Watch This Trailer For "DEAR EVAN HANSEN"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), The American Film Institute (AFI), and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.