Dear Evan Hansen,
The recent movie review critics have revealed at the chance to compare and contrast this adapted screen version in defense of the original hit Broadway musical. While these media sites may thrive on the opportunity to say ‘you didn’t include this… you forgot that,’ I’m here today to let it be known that the heart and soul of this film was nothing short of spectacular.
The Knockturnal was privileged enough to experience the film (and brand new soundtrack) in the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Wednesday, September 22nd as the cast celebrated their premiere night. The title comes from Evan’s therapist encouraging him to write letters to himself in hopes of overcoming his crippling social anxiety. Unable to make friends in high school, he struggles internally overthinking every scenario and constantly fears rejection. Ben Platt, who has played the character since 2014 and was there since the first table read, won a Tony for his performance on stage. His father, Marc Platt, is now a producer on the film.
Although the cast filmed under strict COVID-19 guidelines in the hot heat of Atlanta, Liz Kate who plays Gemma, says they couldn’t be closer. With a star-studded cast including Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, Kaitlyn Dever, Amanda Stenberg, and Danny Pino, the cast’s synergy is felt in every song lyric.
Well, let that lonely feeling wash away
Maybe there’s a reason to believe you’ll be okay
‘Cause when you don’t feel strong enough to stand
You can reach, reach out your hand
So let the sun come streaming in
‘Cause you’ll reach up and you’ll rise again
Lift your head and look around
You will be found
You will be found
Fans of the musical desperately wanted the big screen to follow the original story as closely as possible. Director, Stephen Chbosky, says he had every intention to do so.
“With the help of the producers and the three authors and with Ben Platt, we were mindful of the fans every step of the way. I’m a fan. I didn’t write the show, ya know what I mean? I saw it on Broadway like everybody else…I listen to the soundtrack like everybody else who loves it so I was very mindful to make this one for the fans.”
It’s no easy task to capture what audiences fell in love with back when it first came out; the world was an entirely different place. However, as we sat down in the theatre with tissues in hand, hoping the 2 hour and 17-minute film didn’t leave us sobbing due to its heavy emphasis on the reality of mental illness and what’s left after suicide; I couldn’t help but realize the irony of what a special moment in history seeing this film really was and all that Evan Hansen stands for. Despite the world spending this year in isolation, a representation of Evan’s crippling social anxiety, the film’s narrative screams that no matter what may be going on internally (or in this case, inside of our homes) we are not alone.
In the new song, “The Anonymous Ones,” performed by Ben Platt and Amanda Stenberg (also performed by SZA) the lyrics are about the “perfectionist” who is obsessed with filling up her schedule to avoid analyzing the dark thoughts in her head as she wonders if she’s ever really enough. I found myself nodding and tearing up as I related to this untold narrative of anxiety and depression. And while it’s Ben Platt’s ridiculously talented voice that carries the film overall, the adapted storyline does not hold back to reach out its arms to all archetypes of people that may be feeling this way at home. There’s a sense of community and a push for more representation on screen that the musical lacked. Dear Evan Hansen, The Musical won 6 Tonys for a reason. However, it is the film’s focused narrative that is without a doubt the message audiences need to hear right now as the world continues to trudge forward in unprecedented territory.
Dear Evan Hansen: The Movie is available to view starting today, September 24th.