«Dear Evan Hansen»: insincèrement vôtre

There are films that one looks at with frowning brows in an expression of frank perplexity. The musical drama Dear Evan Hansen (Cher Evan Hansen) is one of them. Adapted from an award-winning but controversial Broadway show, the film stars Evan, a 17-year-old teenager – played by a 27-year-old actor – with social anxiety. A teenager who, through an absurd misunderstanding, passes himself off as Connor’s bereaved best friend, a classmate who has just taken his own life. An elaborate lie follows which sees Evan getting closer to Zoe, the little sister of the deceased, with whom he is in love. Where to start ?

Let’s go first with this decision to entrust the star to Ben Platt (who played the role of Evan on the boards from 2015 to 2017). Easier to cheat on stage, with distance helping, age is revealed more on camera. Here, the subterfuge does not work. Note that the actor’s father, Marc Platt, produced the film: let us draw our own conclusions.

But beyond his age, it is the actor’s interpretation that poses the most problem. Affected and often seeming to play for the back of the gallery, as if he were still on stage, Platt goes about it with a perpetually hunched posture and resumed hand tics without gradation or nuance to express the discomfort. It’s big, big, big, like his whining vocals. To put it bluntly, Platt seems to be holding back from going to the bathroom for two and a quarter hours.

Take notes of Amy Adams, touching mother of denial-stricken Connor, and Julianne Moore, very fair as Evan’s harassed mother (and whose song So Big, So Small is the only one to cause a real thrill), would have been a good idea.

Nauseous element

Add to that all those moments when Evan intrudes into Zoe’s privacy, vulnerable for obvious reasons. The film presenting Evan as an endearing being by virtue of his anxiety, does this mean that this deception, this predation, is meant to be romantic? The denouement suggests in any case that there was nothing there. Yuck.

Either way, the sight of Ben Platt and Kaitlyn Dever (22 in Booksmart, it was okay, 24 years old now, it does it less) as teenagers living their first emotions has something both uneasy and ridiculous. The film is not the first where adults play teenagers, but it is one where the limits of the process are most glaring.

However, the most nauseating element of the affair is the treatment given to the subject of adolescent suicide. Because there is no cure, precisely: Connor’s suicide is only used as a pretext for learning, then for Evan’s development.

However, the film had in its favor the help of Stephen Chbosky, director owl The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012), which was otherwise more acute in its exploration of the torments of adolescence and mental health problems. Chbosky struggles as best he can with questionable material, and his craftsmanship ensures a basic technical quality, but one does not feel particularly comfortable with musical, static and hardly memorable numbers. Admittedly, the film leaves a vivid impression on the contrary, but not for the right reasons.

Cher Evan Hansen (VF de Dear Evan Hansen)

Musical drama by Stephen Chbosky. With Ben Platt, Kaitlyn Dever, Julianne Moore, Amy Adams. United States, 2021, 137 minutes. Indoors.

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