On Broadway, “Dear Evan Hansen” was a smash hit. On the big screen, it will be a flop.
The latest Hollywood musical adaptation debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival on Thursday ahead of its September 24 release. While the on-stage musical has been praised, winning six Tony Awards in 2017, the preliminary reactions and reviews for the Universal film are far less gracious.
“Stephen Chbosky’s film adaptation of ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ … is a complete dud,” wrote Robert Daniels in his review for RogerEbert.com. “It’s an emotionally manipulative and overly long funeral song made up of sickening songs, lackluster vocal performances and even worse writing.”
“Dear Evan Hansen” is about a high school student named Evan Hansen, played by Ben Platt, who suffers from mental health issues. Her therapist asked her to write letters to herself expressing her feelings. When Evan’s classmate Connor Murphy steals one of these letters, Evan’s life is turned upside down. Connor commits suicide and the only thing found on him is Evan’s letter. Connor’s parents assume that Connor wrote the letter for Evan and mistakenly believe that Evan was Connor’s only friend.
What starts out as an innocent misunderstanding turns into a huge lie. Evan claims he was friends with Connor and feigns a secret friendship with the deceased boy, thus flattering himself on Connor’s parents. Evan begins to integrate into school and helps raise awareness of mental health issues through “Project Connor,” a suicide prevention fundraising initiative.
His deception finally crumbles.
“On stage, it’s a heartbreaking: a heart-wrenching grieving story for adults, and a generally candid examination of psychological issues that aren’t really addressed in the mainstream media to its plethora of young fans,” wrote David Gordon. . in his review for Theater Mania. “It puts a strain on gullibility… We know it’s not real, but we accept it anyway, and it provides a nice little catharsis in the middle of the moral gray area as we buy the album from the cast. to the output.”
In the movies, it’s “another story,” Gordon wrote.
“Evan’s actions, which we kind of ignore after seeing them on Broadway because they’re presented with hints of ambiguity, are really celluloid grotesque,” he said. “He’s a Machiavellian villain in a story where he’s written to be the hero.”
Broadway is no stranger to dark matter. Shows such as “Les Misérables”, “Miss Saigon”, “Assassins”, “Sweeney Todd” and “Next to Normal” have all explored difficult topics such as death, suicide and mental health.
However, “Dear Evan Hansen” has always been controversial in the eyes of music fans. There is no doubt that the stage production has been a huge success, garnering nearly $ 250 million in ticket sales since 2016, according to data from Broadway World.
Still, many have disputed how he uses mental illness as a conspiracy and Evan’s anxiety and depression as excuses for manipulative behavior.
Platt, who is reprising his role of Evan Hansen, which he premiered on Broadway, was praised for his singing performance. However, many critics balked at its casting. At 27, Platt is unable to capture the youthful innocence that would endear the public to Evan despite his questionable actions.
“If there was any chance of making this character look anything other than a monster, it hinged on the emphasis on his raw youth,” wrote Alison Willmore, review for Vulture and New York Magazine, on Twitter. “Which makes the casting of an obviously adult man with hunched shoulders an act of sabotage close to the avant-garde.”
The filmed version of “Dear Evan Hansen” cuts four songs but still manages to time around two hours and 17 minutes, almost longer than the stage version.
It’s “both overworked and emotionless,” wrote Karl Delossantos in his review for Smash Cut. He is “insensitive to trauma and mental illness, and out of touch with reality.”
“Without a doubt one of the worst musicals ever made,” he wrote.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal is the distributor of “Dear Evan Hansen”.