It is described as “A musical love letter to all those who feel alone.” The film based on the Broadway hit DEAR EVAN HANSEN is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and streaming. But what can viewers expect from this cinematic version of the beloved show?
When this film was first announced, some criticized the choice to have Ben Platt reprise his award-winning role as the title character because he is now 10 years older than Evan. I had the honor of seeing Platt on Broadway in the role, and the genuine emotion he brings to the character is what made the musical great on stage. That same emotion translates beautifully to the screen. And I submit that no one who sees Platt perform “Words Fail” in this film is thinking about his age. Plus, it is an indisputable fact that Ben Platt has the most perfect voice on the planet. However, even with Platt as the lead this film takes several departures from the Broadway show.
Changes for Film
With the exception of Platt, the cast for the film is all new to this material. Academy Award winner Julianne Moore plays Heidi Hansen, and she is absolute perfection as Evan’s mom. Another standout among the supporting cast members is Nik Dodani (Atypical), who plays the role of Evan’s “family friend” Jared. The biggest star to make their mark on this film is Amy Adams, though this version reduces the role of Cynthia Murphy and we never quite build the same connection with her character.
Overall, the changes for the film adaptation seem to place a bigger emphasis on understanding the teens in the story rather than their families. For instance, while the musical never labels Evan with a diagnosis and lets his performance speak for itself, the film slows down to talk about his struggles with anxiety and depression. Songwriting duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul collaborated once again for the music – which drops several of the original songs but adds two new ones. (More on that as we explore special features from the DVD/Blu-ray.)
For fans of Platt, there is plenty of time devoted to interviews with him about the film in the special features. The lineup of additional content includes:
- Songs to Be Seen: Discussion of each of the songs with the cast and what makes each of them special to the story. Discusses the reasoning behind new songs “Anonymous Ones” and “A Little Closer”, which dive deeper into the characters Alana and Connor.
- Looking Through the Lens: Explores the creation of the film – including casting choices, the decision to focus on different storylines, and the use of live vocals with piano accompaniment.
- Sincerely, Ben Platt: An opportunity for the cast and director Stephen Chbosky to gush about how perfect Platt is for the role of Evan Hansen.
- Stars in Our Eyes: Creating this film amidst COVID precautions, and why this is the perfect time to tell a story about a teen overcoming feelings of isolation.
Whether you’re a fan of the original musical or someone who is discovering the story for the first time – there are some definite benefits to being able to watch this one at home. Like the opportunity to have some tough conversations about mental health around the dinner table. (And, personally, because it is embarrassing to cry that much in public.) And while folks who have followed this story since the beginning may be surprised at some of the changes, the emotion in this film closely echoes the original Broadway musical.