Even on Film, Pricey Evan Hansen Can’t Fix the Musical’s Main Jam

Pricey Evan Hansen, the fracture-hit, Tony winning 2015 musical, became as soon as, relying for your outlook, a poignant depiction of the mental health perils of excessive college, or an unrelentingly cynical little bit of smarm about any individual doing a dreadful component and turning correct into a hero for it. The memoir—a couple of terrified, lonely teen who, in search of human connection, fakes a past friendship with a classmate who has died by suicide—has mountainous doable for darkness. And yet the Broadway (and, previously, off-Broadway) production as a replacement pointed itself squarely at the sizable, bludgeoning uplift endemic to its day.

The display made a widely known particular person of its lead, Ben Platt, and became as soon as vaunted into the musical canon as a allotment of theater that keenly spoke, in all its social-media plotting, to basically the most new disturbing. There became as soon as doubtlessly always going to be a movie, and thus there is, which premiered right here at the Toronto World Film Pageant on Thursday. Would the movie model solve the complications of the stage display, or easiest further exacerbate them?

As directed by Stephen Chbosky—a novelist became filmmaker who covered similar territory within the movie adaptation of his bask in guide, The Perks of Being a Wallflower—the movie is an improvement in some areas, whereas calm incapable of escaping the rot at the property’s core. The hope, dinky doubt, became as soon as that within the intimate framing of a movie, the careful nuance and texture so crucially lacking within the play would possibly perhaps well perhaps well be extra with out complications sussed out—or newly created. Long gone would possibly perhaps well perhaps well be the huge gestures of Broadway, replaced by extra exacting closeup, by upright and complicated persona.

Stretches of the movie enact undergo out that view. Evan, a apprehensive rupture with a cast on his arm from a mysterious accident over the summer season, does indeed seem extra palpably hemmed in by his miniature excessive college environs than he did below the towering top of a midtown proscenium arch. The quotidian plainness of juvenile life, its kitchen conversations and hallway tensions, register extra persuasively.

And, it perhaps must be acknowledged, Hollywood clout has drawn in a bunch of reliable performers to accompany Platt: Kaitlyn Dever, Amandla Stenberg, Danny Pino, Amy Adams, and Julianne Moore. They attach now not appear to be better than the folks that played their roles on Broadway, however they enact lend the image some now not unwelcome glow.

Platt is the very best fashioned cast undergo in thoughts to reprise his role for the movie, a truth that has despatched some eyes rolling in phase because Platt’s handy Broadway co-well-known particular person Rachel Bay Jones also won a Tony for her troubles, yet has been swapped out for the Oscar-winning Moore. It doesn’t seem beautiful. Platt will be reasonably visibly in his gradual 20s, a a lot cry from the shivering, barely adolescent pipsqueak Evan is alleged to be. Chbosky and the hair, makeup, and lights teams can’t enact powerful to conceal up that truth, rendering the movie’s central persona as an outsider oddity from every other-world. Evan Hansen is himself an outsider in his procedure, however the off-ness of Platt’s presence within the movie procedure overstates the case.

The staunch distress of Platt’s performance, though, is that he doesn’t dial down for the camera. He maintains nearly all of his stage work’s highly articulated tics—Evan’s hunched gait and wiggling fingers, his stammered speech patterns—which played perfect-trying from many yards assist in a theater, however are too mannered on movie. He stands proud amongst his extra veil-seasoned cast mates, as if his Broadway performance became as soon as merely video captured and, by CGI magic, bizarrely feeble up and digitally inserted into every person else’s littler, humbler movie.

When Platt sings, powerful of that strangeness briefly evaporates. His highly efficient bari-tenor, most regularly at ease and lush, other times cracking correct into a enjoyable Joni Mitchell plaint, communicates Evan’s emotional reveal powerful extra cogently than does his performing. Dever and Stenberg are also in incandescent mutter, revealing extra abilities many of us didn’t know they had. As Connor, the silly boy who haunts the movie, up-and-coming stage actor Colton Ryan gives a compelling argument for bigger stardom, though he also too with out complications reads as an adult. Pino and Adams (who play Connor’s fogeys) and Moore (as Evan’s mom, Heidi) all revel in nice musical moments, though Jones’s raspy belt is sorely neglected throughout Heidi’s 11 o’clock quantity.

Where Dever, Pino, Adams, and Moore with out a doubt enact their heaviest lifting is in in search of to extract thematic price out of Pricey Evan Hansen’s tortured problem, which considerations a vile cruelty that frames Evan as extra of a Thomas Ripley figure than upright your moderate wretched child who gets in over his head. A tragic misunderstanding leads Connor’s family to judge that he and Evan had been the very best of pals, a mistruth that Evan at the beginning perpetuates tentatively after which wholeheartedly. Especially because it brings Connor’s sister Zoe (played by Dever) ever closer. Evan has prolonged had a crush on Zoe, who warms to Evan as he spins tales about how powerful Connor—a tricky, violent presence in her life—secretly loved his sister and yearned to be a bigger brother.

This dawning relationship, which the movie frames as sweet and romantic (albeit briefly), brings up some thorny and pertinent questions of consent. Evan’s is a dreadful violation, and yet the stage display and now the movie enact dinky to well contextualize that. Level-headed, Dever finds admirable shading within the movie’s insistence that Zoe now not be too angry at Evan when all is printed. She’s such an intuitive, resourceful actor that she will be able to’t succor however battle some redemption out of this imbalanced arena topic. Adams also manages a complex roughly desolation and grownup empathy, a weary and heartbroken smile in her closing scene illustrating an ocean of conflicted feeling.

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