Dear Evan Hansen review – cynical adaptation of the hit musical

The coming-of-age Broadway show about a depressed teenager has been crudely turned into a screen tearjerker

What works as a Broadway musical, where subtlety is lost on everyone but those in the front of the stalls, performances are big and plot points are thunderously emphatic, does not always translate to cinema. Dear Evan Hansen is a case in point. The coming-of-age stage musical, written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, but the story’s angst klaxon of an emotional register swamps the frame in this cinema adaptation, which is directed by Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower).

The stage show’s original star, Ben Platt, reprises his role as Evan Hansen, the anxiety and depression-afflicted high-school senior who accidentally carves out a fictitious role for himself in the life and death of a fellow student. It has been noted elsewhere that Platt, at 28, is pushing it as a school-age teenager, but really that’s the least of the problems with the picture’s crudely manipulative storytelling and honkingly insincere musical numbers. It’s the cinema equivalent of rubbing cut onions in the eyes of the audience: film-making that is cynically and artificially engineered to make the audience weep.

Watch a trailer for Dear Evan Hansen.


Wendy Ide

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Swallows and Amazons review – nostalgic adaptation
Arthur Ransome’s 1930 classic of bracing outdoor fun is brought to big-screen life

Wendy Ide

21, Aug, 2016 @7:00 AM

Article image
Richard Jewell review – Clint Eastwood’s cautionary tale for cynical times
Eastwood’s elegant biopic about the 1996 Olympics security guard turned terror suspect resonates today

Simran Hans

02, Feb, 2020 @10:30 AM

Article image
Drive My Car review – supremely confident Haruki Murakami adaptation
A widowed actor bonds with his chauffeur in Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s beguiling film exploring the creative process, jealousy and guilt

Wendy Ide

21, Nov, 2021 @12:00 PM

Article image
Hearts Beat Loud review – by numbers family musical
Father and daughter bond over pre-college songwriting in perky, but ultimately annoying fashion

Wendy Ide

05, Aug, 2018 @5:59 AM

Article image
Little Women review – the freshest literary adaptation of the year
Greta Gerwig brings the entire March family to life like never before in a respectful but bracingly current version

Wendy Ide

29, Dec, 2019 @8:00 AM

Article image
Félicité review – musical, magnetic portrait of Kinshasa life
Bar singer and single mother Félicité struggles to raise money to help her son in Alain Gomis’s streetwise story

Wendy Ide

12, Nov, 2017 @8:00 AM

Article image
The week in theatre: Dear Evan Hansen; Touching the Void; #WeAreArrested – review
A dazzling West End debut lights up a newly arrived Broadway hit

Susannah Clapp

24, Nov, 2019 @10:30 AM

Article image
The White Tiger review – gripping adaptation of Aravind Adiga's class parable
Loyalty cuts both ways as a poor young Indian lands a job as driver for a successful Delhi businessman in Ramin Bahrani’s compelling film

Wendy Ide

23, Jan, 2021 @3:00 PM

Article image
London Road review – adaptation of ‘Ipswich ripper’ stage musical
Uncomfortable truths surface as local residents deal with the media firestorm ignited by the murders of five women in 2006

Mark Kermode

14, Jun, 2015 @7:00 AM

Article image
Dear Comrades! review – dreams and disillusionment of a Communist party stalwart
The deadly Soviet response to a workers’ strike tests a mother’s faith in communism in Andrei Konchalovsky’s harrowing drama based on true events

Mark Kermode, Observer film critic

17, Jan, 2021 @8:00 AM