Hannah Vanderhooft—Staff Writer
Dear Evan Hansen,
I was so excited for you. I was introduced to your soundtrack during my senior year of high school. When I found out your musical was being adapted to the screen, I couldn’t wait to finally see your story come to life. The theatre kid in me burst at the seams, but I left you disappointed.
You made me physically cringe—mostly due to the casting of Ben Platt, the 27-year-old who played the main character, Evan, in the Original Broadway Musical back in 2015. While it made sense to some, I felt uncomfortable watching Platt trying to sell the character of a seventeen-year-old high school student by attempting to cover up the ten-year age gap with a bad perm and a heavy layer of foundation.
But I have another bone to pick with Platt: his acting from the stage to the camera didn’t change. Acting in a theatre with a live audience requires over-dramatized movements and facial expressions. Acting for the camera requires more subtle and realistic decisions. The actor needed to communicate realistic human behavior, but Platt didn’t do that. His facial expressions in several different crying scenes were reminiscent of a high school boy discovering his emotions on stage for the first time.
I’ll give it to Platt: his vocals are incredible, and his falsetto is soothing, but the intimacy of the camera doesn’t compare to the nuance the stage brings, and it brought forth the problematic plotline.
The original Broadway musical sold itself as a space for open conversations about mental health and suicide, won Tony Awards, and gained a significant amount of attention from people outside of the theatre world. However, the more I think about the storyline, the more it feels like a celebration of a sociopathic liar.
The film manipulates the audience into celebrating Evan and the web of lies he weaves throughout the entire movie. As viewers, it feels okay that Evan is lying about being friends with Connor, his classmate who commits suicide. We celebrate when Evan starts dating Connor’s sister, and we get mad at Evan’s mom when she begins to realize what Evan has done and tries to call him out on it.
Once the truth is revealed at the end, Evan faces next to no consequences for his actions. We are meant to feel good for Evan because he faced fears and had a girlfriend for a little while and spread awareness about suicide in an abstract way, but that’s not how I felt while watching this. It felt like the film was saying that it was okay to lie if it benefits us, even if it hurts other people.
I was confused, feeling like I had emotional whiplash from the 137-minute rollercoaster I was just brought on.
So, Dear Evan Hansen, you were the worst. From poor editing, to casting a 27-year-old as a teenager, to having a problematic plotline, I’m pushing you to the back of my mind.
I will have no requiem for you today.