You’ll discover it onerous to care regardless of the movie’s insistence that you just in all probability ought to.
The distinction between intention and execution is often not all that noticeable, however typically the goal an artist goals for is way faraway from the one they hit. That divide has not often been as extensive because the one present between the said themes of Expensive Evan Hansen and the movie itself. It’s a film with the very best of intentions, nevertheless it’s destined to go away some viewers with the meanest of ideas in regards to the title character.
Evan (a twenty-seven year-old Ben Platt) is a teen with Social Nervousness dysfunction. We all know this as a result of he says as a lot but additionally as a result of his fingers fidget, he seems to the ground lots, and he sings (songs that others hear as regular speaking). A well-meaning therapist, in all probability unlicensed, suggests he write and print optimistic, optimistic letters to himself to begin his day on the correct foot. Evan does simply that whereas at college sooner or later, however his written ideas take a darker flip. Worse, the printout is taken by the varsity’s loner, Connor (Colton Ryan), who proceeds to go dwelling and kill himself. Connor’s grieving mother and father (Amy Adams, Danny Pino) assume their son wrote the be aware and that the 2 teenagers have been buddies, and Evan — awkward, lonely, anxious, egocentric, devious Evan — encourages that perception.
Look, I’m all for tales telling the unhappy reality about victims gaining energy and changing into the villains, however the place 2017’s underseen Taiwanese gem Mon Mon Mon Monsters and Nate’s arc on the second season of Ted Lasso get it proper, Expensive Evan Hansen will get it woefully improper. Evan is an underdog of types, however letting him not simply journey however steer this runaway prepare of emotional manipulation, inconsideration, and cruelty for many of an offensively lengthy operating time is a selection that severely undermines the very actual themes at play and as an alternative ends in a prepare wreck of a film.
Author Steven Levenson adapts his personal stage musical — one I’ve by no means seen which means it is a assessment strictly of the movie because it stands — alongside director Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, 2012), and its numerous beats are an extremely tough balancing act to tug off beneath even the very best of circumstances. The expertise on show here’s a large push in the direction of these precise circumstances because the solid additionally consists of greats like Julianne Moore, Kaitlyn Dever, and Amandla Stenberg, however none of them can proper the wrongs of Expensive Evan Hansen.
Whereas Evan’s preliminary response is one constructed on sympathy for the household, he shortly takes the help and sort phrases he’s receiving — his “friendship” turns into the main focus of a motion to encourage reaching out to these round you in order that nobody feels so alone — and shapes them to his needs and needs. His mother (Moore) works an excessive amount of, so he bathes within the consideration of Connor’s mother and father. He’s lengthy had a crush on Connor’s sister Zoe (Dever), so he takes this chance to bag her as a girlfriend. (This beat is its personal supply of rivalry as Zoe’s sudden attraction to Evan makes Malignant‘s bonkers story turns appear fairly sedate by comparability.) He betrays the friendship of the movie’s kindest soul, however don’t fear, the movie ensures that she return the favor as one final hurrah in the direction of inconsistency of character.
There are extra plot beats that comply with together with an finish reveal meant to encourage sympathy for Evan, nevertheless it’s the epitome of “too little too late.” By the point the tip credit roll, there’s not a single character right here who feels genuine, trustworthy, or redeemed. Even Evan’s mother, essentially the most grounded character right here and given plausible life by Moore, succumbs to the vacancy of Expensive Evan Hansen‘s final message. After studying her son’s been an actual dick and has triggered insufferable emotional hurt, she primarily tells him “meh, who’ll keep in mind this in a yr?” We must always all be so fortunate as to neglect it, however that appears unlikely.
It’s all so unlucky too, as once more, these are proficient individuals telling what ought to have been an affecting and essential story. Platt is a gifted singer, however he feels so misplaced right here and unable to go for a teen (regardless of having originated the position on stage six years in the past). Slumped shoulders really feel like an ineffective effort to look smaller, and the eventual (and inexplicable) erasure of his anxious mannerisms is a selection that appears ill-conceived throughout the board. Sure, you can also overcome your debilitating psychiatric dysfunction just by making others really feel like shit!
Did I point out it’s additionally a musical? Whereas 2021’s different movie musicals function dance numbers and ensemble songs, Expensive Evan Hansen sees its characters break into occasional music to impart each dialogue and exposition. Whereas one sings others interject as if it’s merely a dialog, and when Evan’s public and completely fictional ode to Connor’s friendship goes viral it’s not his music persons are seeing, sharing, and reacting to, it’s simply him speaking. The machine works nicely to raise emotionally charged dialogue by crafting it in musical deliveries, however the songs by no means actually break by way of with lyrics about being alone, refusing to care, or how Evan’s mother isn’t a U-Haul truck. (I’ll have misunderstood Moore’s music to her son about how she’s sticking with him for the lengthy haul.)
The one factor Expensive Evan Hansen will get proper is that social media is a real scourge of recent society. It’s by no means the main focus right here, and certainly the unwashed plenty who use it to blindly elevate or bash others are by no means taken to job, nevertheless it’s a reality all the identical. The concept that bullies who discover recognition typically grow to be bullies themselves can be each current and ignored leaving solely the extra simplistic theme behind — be good to others since you by no means actually know what they’re coping with in their very own lives (and given the chance these motherfuckers will fortunately dance in your grave).
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