Dear Evan Hansen (film)
|Dear Evan Hansen|
|Directed by||Stephen Chbosky|
|Screenplay by||Steven Levenson|
|Based on||Dear Evan Hansen|
by Steven Levenson
|Edited by||Anne McCabe|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$14.7 million|
Dear Evan Hansen is a 2021 American coming-of-age musical teen drama film directed by Stephen Chbosky from a screenplay by Steven Levenson. It is based on the 2015 stage musical of the same name by Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul. Ben Platt plays the title role, reprising the performance that he originated on stage. The ensemble cast also includes Kaitlyn Dever, Amandla Stenberg, Nik Dodani, Colton Ryan, Danny Pino, Julianne Moore, and Amy Adams.
Dear Evan Hansen premiered at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2021, as the opening night presentation, and was theatrically released in the United States on September 24, 2021, by Universal Pictures. As of October 21, 2021, it had grossed $14.7 million against a $27 million budget, and received mixed reviews from critics, who compared it unfavorably to the stage musical.
Teenager Evan Hansen suffers from social anxiety. His therapist recommends that he write letters to himself detailing why "today will be good". Having fallen out of a tree and broken his arm, his mother, Heidi, suggests that he ask people to sign his cast, to try and make friends. At school, Evan writes his letter to himself, wondering whether anyone would notice if he disappeared ("Waving Through a Window").
Evan's classmate Connor Murphy offers to sign his cast, taking up a lot of space. He finds Evan's letter and becomes furious at the mention of his sister, Zoe, who is also Evan's crush. Believing that Evan wrote the letter to provoke him, he storms out with the letter in hand. Three days later, Evan is called to the principal's office and is told by Connor's parents that Connor committed suicide. Despite Evan's attempts to tell the truth, the two misinterpret the letter Connor stole as a suicide note addressed to Evan, with Connor's name on his cast solidifying their belief.
Evan is invited to the Murphys' house. Under pressure from Cynthia, he invents a friendship between the two, manufacturing a story about breaking his arm while with Connor at an orchard the Murphys visited ("For Forever"). Evan enlists his family friend, Jared, in fabricating backdated emails between him and Connor to confirm his story ("Sincerely, Me"). Zoe wonders why Connor included her name in his suicide note due to past experiences ("Requiem"). Evan, still unable to tell the truth, tells her all the reasons he loves her under the guise of Connor ("If I Could Tell Her").
Another classmate, Alana Beck, who has similar mental health issues to Evan ("The Anonymous Ones"), proposes "The Connor Project", a student group dedicated to keeping Connor's memory alive, with an upcoming assembly as the kickoff. At the assembly, Evan gives a speech about his loneliness and friendship with Connor, retelling the orchard story. A video of the speech goes viral, with Evan's words being used as hope to people dealing with mental illness ("You Will Be Found"). Zoe is overcome by the positive reception and thanks Evan for helping her family.
Evan and Alana launch a crowdfunding campaign through The Connor Project to reopen the orchard. Evan begins to neglect his mother, The Connor Project, and his therapy in favor of spending time with the Murphys. When Zoe comes over to Evan's house one night, she confesses her feelings for him and the two strike a romance ("Only Us"). Meanwhile, Heidi shows up at the Murphys' for dinner, during which Cynthia and Larry offer to give Connor's college fund to Evan. Heidi declines, refusing charity from the wealthy Murphys.
When Alana begins to doubt Evan's friendship with Connor, Evan emails her his therapy letter, saying it was Connor's suicide note. Alana posts the letter on her social media in order to get The Connor Project to its funding goal ("The Anonymous Ones – Reprise"). Online commenters question why Connor wrote a suicide note to Evan but not his family, accusing the Murphys of mistreating him. Due to backlash, Alana deletes the letter from social media. During an argument between Cynthia and Larry, Evan comes clean ("Words Fail"). Devastated, the Murphys decide to keep the truth hidden out of respect for Connor's memory, and Zoe and Evan break up. Evan admits to his mother that his fall from the tree was a suicide attempt. Heidi apologizes for not seeing how deeply Evan was hurting and discussing how his absent father scarred him ("So Big/So Small").
Wanting to take responsibility, Evan uploads a video confessing the truth. Alone again, he reads a list of Connor's favorite books and gets in touch with those who truly knew him. He receives a video of Connor performing music while in rehab, passing it along to the Murphys, Alana, and Jared ("A Little Closer"). Evan meets with Zoe at the reopened orchard dedicated to Connor's memory. They reconcile, with Zoe telling Evan she wanted him to see the orchard, the one place Connor loved. Evan writes himself a letter, vowing not to hide or lie and encouraging himself to move forward in life ("A Little Closer – Finale").
- Ben Platt as Evan Hansen
- Amy Adams as Cynthia Murphy
- Julianne Moore as Heidi Hansen
- Kaitlyn Dever as Zoe Murphy
- Amandla Stenberg as Alana Beck
- Nik Dodani as Jared Kalwani
- Danny Pino as Larry Mora
- Colton Ryan as Connor Murphy
- DeMarius Copes as Oliver
- Liz Kate as Gemma
- Isaac Cole Powell as Rhys
- Zoey Luna as Leila
- Avery Bederman as Isabelle
- Gerald Caesar as Josh
- Tommy Kane as Greg
- Marvin Leon as Skye
- Hadiya Eshé as Cherise
- Julia Chen Myers as Naomi
- Mariana Alvarez as Mrs. G.
- Swift Rice as Mr. Howard
Universal Pictures purchased the film rights to the musical in November 2018, hiring Stephen Chbosky as director, and the writer of the musical Steven Levenson also set to write the screenplay for the film. Marc Platt and Adam Siegel would serve as producers, while the show's lead producer Stacey Mindich and composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, would serve as executive producers alongside Levenson and Michael Bederman.
In June 2020, Ben Platt, who originated the role of Evan Hansen on stage and is the son of producer Marc Platt, was expected to reprise his role for the film, and Kaitlyn Dever entered negotiations to star as Zoe Murphy as well. On June 18, 2020, Platt said that he intended to reprise the role unless the COVID-19 pandemic had delayed production. Stephen Chbosky explained that the film's main goal was to capture and immortalize Platt's performance, saying that "His understanding of the character is so complete and so profound. I couldn't imagine anybody else playing it. It's his part. I felt very strongly about it. And to me it was never even a consideration." He later explained that this was the reason why the film omitted the musical's opening number, "Anybody Have a Map," saying that "We're really on Evan's journey. It freed us up to meet all the characters through Evan. And it binds the audience to a way in Evan that is so valuable."
In August 2020, Kaitlyn Dever was officially cast as Zoe Murphy and Amandla Stenberg joined the cast as Alana Beck, a role that has been expanded upon for the film. That same month, Nik Dodani was cast as Jared Kleinman (now Kalwani) while Colton Ryan was cast as Connor Murphy, a role Ryan understudied on Broadway. Near the end of that month, Amy Adams and Danny Pino joined the cast as Cynthia and Larry Murphy, the latter of whom was re-conceived for the film as Larry Mora, their children's stepfather. In September 2020, Julianne Moore and DeMarius Copes joined the cast of the film. Moore was cast to play Heidi Hansen and Copes, in his film acting debut, was cast as Oliver, one of Zoe Murphy's friends and a new character created specifically for the film. That same month, Gerald Caesar joined the cast of the film as Josh, one of the high school students. In October 2020, newcomer Liz Kate joined the cast of the film as Gemma. In November 2020, Isaac Cole Powell joined the cast of the film, as Rhys, a high school jock.
On August 25, 2020, Ben Platt confirmed that principal photography had begun. It was shot in Los Angeles and Atlanta, with primary filming with the main cast taking place in September and expected to end around Thanksgiving. About making the film during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kaitlyn Dever said to Variety, "I'm very happy that we're able to make something so special during such a strange and sad and confusing times ... I have gotten used to the 'doing nothing' part of my job, which is just sitting and waiting for something to happen. Now, I feel like I'm really geared up for this and ready to go." Additional filming took place in Fayetteville, Georgia, which included scenes involving Ellison State Park. The high school scenes were filmed at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic High School in Fayetteville, and B.J. Reece Orchards was used for the scenes that took place at the Autumn Smile Apple Orchard/Connor Murphy Memorial Orchard. Blackhall Studios in Atlanta served as the COVID-19 testing site for the actors and crew members on set. The vocal performances in the film were recorded almost entirely live on set, specifically to ensure that Ben Platt's vocals sounded as real and authentic as possible when he sings on screen. On December 15, 2020, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairwoman Donna Langley confirmed that the film would wrap production that month.
In a February 2021 interview with Drew Barrymore on her daytime talk show, Ben Platt described his experience of recreating his performance as Evan Hansen as "really special" and "bizarre", while also hoping the film will be "a really moving experience for a lot of different ages of people ... I think it's going to be particularly poignant in terms of everybody's inability and ability to reach out, and the ways in which we struggle to do that, and the magic that can happen when you do connect with someone and finally feel seen." On May 13, 2021, Ben Platt admitted he was apprehensive about translating his performance for the screen. "I think I was nervous about having to meet that same level in a medium that I'm not necessarily as instinctually comfortable in, and that doesn't necessarily lend itself to the same kind of fireworks as a live performance." Ultimately, Platt overcame his personal reservations because they felt like "small beer...Having an opportunity to share this story with, like, millions more people is ultimately much more important than my being worried that my performance won't be as good as it was on stage." Platt also confirmed he lost weight and grew his hair out in order to look "authentic" as a gawky and fresh-faced 17-year-old.
Differences from the musical
For the film, changes were made to the portrayals of the show's characters, as mentioned above, along with the omission of four of the songs: "Disappear", "To Break in a Glove", "Good For You", and "Anybody Have a Map". The latter two, however, are played instrumentally by the Westview High School marching band, during the pep rally scene early in the film. Another change was shrinking the role of Jared and expanding upon the character of Alana, making the latter the one who starts The Connor Project with Evan joining in to help, which explains the cutting of "Disappear" and material involving Evan seeing visions of Connor telling him to push forward with the lies and keep his memory alive. Another character change happens with the character of Larry Mora (Murphy in the stage version), whose relationship with Connor was changed from "father" to "stepfather", due to the casting of Danny Pino. Furthermore, Zoe and Evan start their relationship during the song "You Will Be Found" in the stage version, but in the film, it is implied that their relationship starts during "Only Us", as we see flash forwards of the two characters going to prom and an amusement park. Additionally, Ben Platt revealed that the ending was altered for the film, describing it as "a kind of extended third act in which we get to see a little bit more of Evan's repentance and redemption and the work that he does subsequently to make amends and really get to know who Connor was and try to help the family heal... He's not, like, quite as off the hook as he is in the musical, where you've been sitting in a theater for two and a half hours and you're kind of ready to wrap it up." The film uses very few elements from Val Emmich's 2018 young adult novelization of the musical, which featured material from cut scenes and songs from the musical's development to expand upon its own version of the story.
|Dear Evan Hansen (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)|
|Soundtrack album by|
|Released||September 24, 2021|
|Singles from Dear Evan Hansen: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
In August 2020, it was confirmed that in addition to playing Alana Beck, Amandla Stenberg would collaborate with Pasek & Paul on the writing of a new song for her character. On August 21, 2021, the title of this new song was revealed as "The Anonymous Ones". On May 18, 2021, the official film website launched and confirmed that the following songs would be included: "You Will Be Found", "Waving Through a Window", "For Forever", and "Words Fail". On the same day, Ben Platt stated in a Vanity Fair interview that "I think there's nothing major gone that anyone's going to miss. All of the major beats and all of the favorite songs are very much intact", while also hinting that another new song, entitled "A Little Closer", had been written for the film, later revealed to have been written for the character of Connor Murphy. On August 24, 2021, it was announced that the film's incidental underscore will be composed by Justin Paul and Dan Romer.
The film's soundtrack album was released by Interscope Records on September 24, 2021, the same day as the film. It also includes covers of five of the songs by popular artists, such as Sam Smith, Finneas, Carrie Underwood, Dan + Shay, and Tori Kelly. The first of these covers, "Only Us" (by Underwood and Dan + Shay) was released on September 3, 2021, alongside the film's version of the song. Prior to that, the film's renditions of "Waving Through a Window" and "You Will Be Found" were released as promotional singles on August 26, 2021. Both Stenberg and SZA's versions of "The Anonymous Ones" were released on September 10, 2021, the same day as the film's world premiere. SZA's version of this song and Sam Smith and Summer Walker's version of "You Will Be Found" play over the closing credits, the latter song being released to the public on September 17, 2021. These were followed by "Sincerely, Me," which was released on September 13, 2021.
|1.||"Waving Through a Window"||3:56|
|5.||"If I Could Tell Her"||4:03|
|6.||"The Anonymous Ones"||Amandla Stenberg||4:43|
|7.||"You Will Be Found"||5:58|
|10.||"So Big / So Small"||Julianne Moore||4:25|
|11.||"A Little Closer"||Ryan||4:10|
|12.||"You Will Be Found" (featuring Summer Walker)||Sam Smith||3:56|
|13.||"The Anonymous Ones"||SZA||4:09|
|15.||"A Little Closer"||Finneas||4:02|
|16.||"Waving Through a Window"||Tori Kelly||4:26|
The film had its world premiere as the Opening Night Gala Presentation of the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2021, both virtually and in-theatre at the Princess of Wales Theatre and Roy Thomson Hall. Upon the announcement of its premiere, TIFF's co-head and artistic director Cameron Bailey remarked “There was no question that Dear Evan Hansen was the ideal film to launch the festival this year ... This film is ultimately about healing, forgiveness, and reaffirms how connected and essential we all are to one another. We couldn't think of a more important idea to celebrate this year as we come together once again to share the power and joy of cinema in theaters together.” It held its Los Angeles premiere at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on September 22, 2021, and will hold its Japanese premiere on November 8, 2021, as the closing night film of the 2021 Tokyo International Film Festival.
It was released theatrically on September 24, 2021. An early screening with a preceding live Q&A with the cast, presented by Fathom Events, took place in select theaters across the United States on September 23, 2021. On September 8, 2021, it was announced that the film will also be screened in IMAX and Dolby Cinema. Tickets went on sale two days later. It was made available on premium video-on-demand platforms on October 15, 2021.
The first trailer was released online on May 18, 2021. The appearance of the character of Evan Hansen was met with criticism, with viewers commenting that Platt, at age 27, looked too old to play a teenager. Platt dismissed the response, comparing his age to those of actors who played high school students in the 1978 film Grease.
Four houseguests in the Big Brother 23 house saw an early screening, even before the world premiere, as a reward for winning the 'Power of Veto' competition; that episode aired on CBS on September 1, 2021. Additionally, Platt performed "You Will Be Found" on NBC's America's Got Talent the same day, as well as "Waving Through a Window" on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on September 15, 2021, to promote the film.
The final trailer for the film was released online on September 16, 2021.
In the United States and Canada, Dear Evan Hansen was projected to gross $9–11 million from 3,364 theaters in its opening weekend. It grossed $3.3 million on its first day, including $800,000 from Thursday previews. It went on to underperform with a debut of $7.5 million, finishing second behind holdover Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Rebecca Rubin of Variety attributed the film's underperformance to poor reviews and some moviegoers' reluctance to go to theaters during the COVID-19 pandemic. Anthony D'Alessandro of Deadline Hollywood suggested that the film may have been more immediately profitable had it been released onto NBCUniversal's streaming service Peacock, but added, "when the movies don't work at the box office, they're equally lackluster on the service."
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 29% of 225 critics have given the film a positive review with an average rating of 4.8/10. The critics consensus reads, "Dear Evan Hansen does a fair job of capturing the emotion of its source material, but it's undermined by questionable casting and a story that's hard to swallow." On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 40 out of 100 from 42 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews."
Scott Mendelson of Forbes lauded the film as an "engaging and entertaining passion play, strengthened by a deluge of onscreen talent and subtly directed in a way that opens up the play without calling attention to its stage-bound roots." Conversely, Valerie Complex of Deadline Hollywood dismissed it as "inauthentic", shallow", and "an exercise in restraint. You either want to scream at the screen or shrink down in your chair from suffering secondhand embarrassment from these characters and their actions." David Sims of The Atlantic opined that "almost everything imaginable has gone wrong [...] and the result is a film that [is] just painful to watch." Brian Truitt of USA Today called it inferior to other contemporary musical films releases such as filmed productions of Hamilton and Come from Away and the adaptation of Everybody's Talking About Jamie: "Dear Evan Hansen frustratingly falls in between, espousing the importance of empathy and connection but in a disappointing package."
The performances were well-received, particularly those of Moore, Adams, Stenberg, and Dever. Explained David Fear of Rolling Stone, "there are enough of these goosebump-inducing, epiphanic moments courtesy of the actor that you see why people might love this film as well as cringe at it. Platt does not ruin the movie. He singlehandedly gives it a voice." Platt's acting was enjoyed by Peter Debruge of Variety, but disliked the choice to cast "actors born the previous century" as high school students. Nate Jones of Vulture also called out Platt for being too old for the character, adding that his de-aging makeup backfired. He joked, "When he gets up onstage for the second act's big musical number, I wasn't sure if he was going to memorialize his dead classmate or speak on the importance of 401(k) matching."
The film's handling of its source material, particularly how the Broadway version's stagey aspects mixed in with the film format, was generally not well received. Few critics felt the transition from stage to screen was successful, including Charles McNulty of the Los Angeles Times who still found the stage version better. Debruge was critical of the plotting, but gave the production crew credit for at least making some adjustments to the stage show's book, if not as many as would be desired. Less favorably, Dan Rubins of Slant Magazine and Bill Goodykoontz of The Arizona Republic felt the film needed more emotional depth for its serious themes to resonate; Goodykoontz highlighted Dever's and Moore's characters for being "the most realistically affected by what's going on in the story". Even more negatively, IndieWire reviewer Tina Hassannia and Katie Walsh of Hastings Tribune felt the source material's artifice and musical genre did not work for a mainstream film about mental health, suggesting a dramedy style would have worked better. As Adrian Horton of The Guardian, referring to Platt's presentation as a teenager, and the film's treatment of mental health, stated, "The movie asks the audience to not look at two elephants in the room, and unfortunately, no amount of soaring music can relieve that heavy a burden." Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that Chbosky "needed to make Dear Evan Hansen less grandiose. He needed to pick up the pace and chop 10 minutes from the running time".
Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune said about Chbosky's direction, "Dear Evan Hansen preserves many of the selling points of its stage incarnation. But 'preserves' isn't the same as 'activates.'" Vanity Fair's Richard Lawson wrote the screen adaptation left the original musical's conflicting message of staying hopeful while considering Evan's hope unwarranted. He proposed that it should have really focused on "the false cheer and heavily synthetic inspiration content of so much contemporary online life". He also found Platt's stagey acting, specifically his "highly articulated tics", unsuitable for the film format. Issues of dissonance of tone were also noticed by Michael Rechtshaffen in his otherwise positive review for The Hollywood Reporter. He wrote that the non-musical scenes especially "struggle to find an agreeable balance between the theatrical and the melodramatic".
Some reviewers took issue with the film's handling of themes related to trauma. Mendelson felt it was unsuccessful at addressing the problem. Nate Jones of Vulture labeled it "distressing, messy, full of psychological manipulation and passive aggression", and Jeannette Catsoulis of The New York Times lamented that it "turns villain into victim and grief into an exploitable vulnerability". David Crow of Den of Geek bashed the film as only "paying lip-service to trauma and the lonely for its own benefit", calling it more uncomfortable than watching the 2019 film adaptation of Cats. /Film's Josh Spiegel also panned the social issues portrayed as stuck in the early 2010s, which were "untimely", "ungainly", and "excruciatingly awkward" around the time of the film's release.
Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it a 78% positive score, with 57% saying they would definitely recommend it.
Alex Wood of WhatsOnStage concluded in his review, "Spectators will likely land on one of three outcomes: it's either passably interesting (though overly long), rousingly novel or terrifyingly awful - all depending on whether or not you can empathise with Evan's so-called plight." Relish Mix, a social media monitor, assigned the film a 5.5 out of 10 on its meters, saying: "Convo quality runs the gamut — from joyous praise of the power of the theme coming from the Broadway play as a post-pandemic story of hope and inspiration with the musical soundtrack that runs deep into our culture, celebrated by audiences. On the cynical side, threads over the last four months touch on questions about Ben Platt being cast as a high school student given the fact that he's 27."
Response by studio and cast
According to The Wrap, the producers and Universal executives were both "deeply disappointed" by the backlash to both the film and some of its elements but were also proud of the film. Steven Levenson said that he believed in the "value of criticism", but characterized critiques of Platt's casting as "cruel". In an interview with Zach Sang, Ben Platt responded to accusations of nepotism, as his father Marc Platt had produced the film, saying, "I think the reaction is largely from people who don't understand the context of the piece – the fact that I created the role and workshopped it for three years ... Were I not to do the movie, it probably wouldn't get made."
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