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Monday, 27 September 2021 15:11

Dear ‘Dear Evan Hansen’

Dear “Dear Evan Hansen,”

It turns out that this wasn’t an amazing movie after all. It isn’t going to be an amazing adaptation that will capture the imaginations of viewers, even those who adore the original stage musical version. Nor will it prove to be the financial windfall that is almost certainly its raison d’etre.

And why is that?

Oh, I know. Because there’s Ben Platt. Ben Platt, who won the Tony for originating the titular role back in the middle of the 2010s. Ben Platt, who absolutely should have known better, who should have had the self-awareness to recognize that an unmistakably adult man in his late 20s cannot plausibly play a high school student on screen. Maybe if I had a preexisting relationship with this musical, I could move past that, but since I don’t, all I see is a bordering-on-sociopathic narrative playing out with an energy that feels both maudlin and parodic.

I wish that this experience had been different. I wish that I could focus on the aspects of it that worked – for instance, the music is undeniably lovely – but instead, I am trapped in the uncanny valley of pretending Ben Platt is a teenager. I wish that director Stephen Chbosky had proven successful in his attempt to marry his own specific style of angsty teenage drama to the broad spectacle of musical theatre … but he did not. Instead, we got an obvious attempt to ground the story in some kind of realism, despite the fact that a) the narrative is too fundamentally broken to treat realistically, and b) dramatic intimacy is fundamentally undermined by the constant breaking into song.

Published in Movies

I’m an unabashed fan of teen comedies. From John Hughes on down, I have always loved stories of teenagers doing teenager stuff. I particularly love coming-of-age stories, whether they’re emotionally grounded stories of tentative steps into adulthood or broad “last night before graduation” raunchfests.

When I initially learned about the new film “Booksmart,” I got the impression it would be the latter. And it is – but it’s also the former. It is heartfelt and thoughtful in ways that will ring true to anyone who is (or ever was) a teenager, capturing the challenges faced by a certain kind of student as they prepare to move forward from high school. But it is ALSO a foul-mouthed and unapologetically weird comedy, packed with high-minded jokes and lowbrow gags alike.

Seriously – however good you think this movie is, it’s almost certainly better.

Published in Movies

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