Anyone who knows me knows I love musicals and musical theater. In fact, this year I have seen 27 local live shows since I have been vaccinated. You can read my theater reviews on my other site here. Back in 2017 I did a podcast with my friend Hayden on the Tony Awards. To prepare I listened to the original cast recordings and watched as many clips as I could (I don’t live in NYC so first run shows are hard for me to see). Instantly I was captivated by the recording for the musical Dear Evan Hansen. The songs were so engaging with great hooks. I loved them!
Now I have yet to actually see the musical on stage but I hope I get the chance someday. Fortunately this week I got to see the filmed version of the musical and it is not without its flaws but I still overall connected with its themes and love the uplifting music.
I totally understand why some people are responding negatively to this film. It definitely has some issues story-wise. To begin with Evan’s mental health issues come and go. At times he can’t muster the confidence to order a pizza on the phone and at other times he’s asking girls out and going to dances. It doesn’t really make sense.
Also the character Connor we are told he is abusive to his sister and she holds no remorse for his passing. She’s relieved and then another minute we see him dancing around singing with Evan in a fantasy sequence. It’s very strange. Also, I thought the portrayal of his mother by Julianne Moore was odd. Usually single Moms are seen as strong and empowered but she was judged harshly by the script for over-working and not being there for her son.
All that said…I still enjoyed the movie. I know it’s weird, but I was able to put all the negatives aside and focus on the core idea of loneliness and how once we matter and are loved it can make all the difference. Evan realizes he can actually make a difference in the world and the more he speaks out the happier he is. We all have those lonely moments, especially as teens, and maybe we can help rescue each other? That’s the main point of the story.
Of course, he also lies so it’s a flawed story, but I was able to see the core of what they are going for and enjoy it flaws and all. I also love the music by La La Land‘s Pasek and Paul. I actually think the songs are far better than in La La Land. I also appreciate the songs are all sung well with Ben Platt reprising his Tony winning role. (I know some criticized his casting but it personally didn’t bother me as all the teen characters are in their 20s so it didn’t stick out. Plus every teen movie practically has 20 year olds).
Kaitlyn Dever is great as Zoe and Amandla Stenberg does a good job with a perky character that is hiding her own demons. She also gets a new song called “The Anonymous Ones”, which did a good job of underscoring the themes of loneliness and fear.
If you don’t care for Dear Evan Hansen I totally get it, but I walked away having thought about my lonely moments, and what I would write to myself. The music soars, the singing is great and it is trying to share a positive message to teens. I think you can watch it with your teen and have a great discussion about how we can all love more, communicate better and try to notice those who are ‘waving through a window’ crying out for help
5.5 out of 10