A semi-sour apple: A review of “Dear Evan Hansen”

Felicity Fulton, Staff Writer

“Dear Evan Hansen,” as a movie, has a lot of issues. The acting can be awkward at times, the visual age gap between the main characters is really off-putting, and some of the singing could use some work (looking at you, Julianne Moore).

That doesn’t mean all is bad, though. The musical, turned book, turned film was released on Sept. 24. While flawed, the movie still managed to dance its way into the minds of everyone in the theater and had them singing “Sincerely, Me” all the way home. 

The story of “Dear Evan Hansen” follows socially anxious Evan, arm freshly broken, as he goes through senior year of high school. After Connor, the school outcast, steals a letter meant for Evan’s therapist, he takes his own life. His parents then find the note on him, believing it to be a suicide note adressed to Evan. The story behind his and Connor’s “friendship” spirals further and further into a web of lies, and Evan suddenly finds himself in a difficult situation. 

The movie tackles topics of mental health and the consequences that can stem from it, along with how it affects all types of people. Because of its topic, a lot of people relate to the story, and especially Evan. I personally relate to Evan and his struggles, which is what kept me so invested in the character. The movie has been criticized for portraying mental health poorly or even fantasizing it, but I think the movie does a decent job at showing the various stages and ranges of severeness of a mental illness.

Ben Platt revives the role of the titular Evan Hansen, and despite the backlash over his age from fans, Platt just looked like an overtired senior which suits the role. The cast consists of a few other A-list celebrities as well, from Julianne Moore playing Heidi, Evan’s mom, and Amy Adams who played Connor’s mom, Cynthia. Other stars include Kaitlyn Dever (Zoe), Amandla Stenberg (Alana), Colton Ryan (Connor), and Nik Dodani (Jared). 

While some actors floundered a bit on performance, the majority did wonders for their roles, with the stand out to me being Dever as Zoe. I had never seen her in anything prior, but I think she more than deserved her role. Her beautiful soprano tone helped make up for the fact that she looked really young next to Platt. Moore, who played Evan’s mom, was one actress who didn’t quite hit the mark. Her role in the movie was cut quite a bit from her original portrayal in the musical and subsequent book, which worked in the film’s favor as her singing fell a bit flat.

The original Broadway soundtrack of “Dear Evan Hansen” has become super synonymous with the show, so many expected every song to be included in the movie adaptation. However, some songs were cut, and others were replaced. Both “Anybody Have A Map” and “Good For You” were cut, which didn’t help Moore’s role in the film. “Disappear” was also replaced by a new song titled, “The Anonymous Ones,” sung by Alana, a girl Evan befriends after she organizes a memorial for Connor. While the song seems to be well received by fans and even hits close to home for some, “Disappear” is overall a better song for that segment of the movie. It’s one of the few times Connor sings in the show, and cutting it out took away from potential character development. 

The book, I believe, is the best way to consume this story, but this isn’t a book review. Fortunately for the film, when the singing is good, it’s really good, and you can tell the emotions of the character (which is typically hard to see from two balconies up). Winner of most emotional acting definitely goes to Adams, who played the grieving mother role so well. If there was a rating system, I’d give “Dear Evan Hansen” 6.5 out of 10 amazing trees. I actually really enjoyed the movie, and I prefer the ending here to the musical one. Minus the lack of “Good for You,” but I digress.