A letter: ‘Dear Evan Hansen,’ the movie
Dear Evan Hansen, The Movie,
I’m sorry I didn’t like you as much as you wanted me to. I tried, I really, really tried. As you know, I’m a sucker for a good Broadway musical and, heck, you won a ton of Tony’s — the biggest smash hit since “Hamilton.” I know you suffer from crippling anxiety, from the sense that you’re just not good enough. But you know what? You’re right. You’re no “Hamilton.” You’re not even “In The Heights,” the movie.
It’s not that you’re all bad. You have a very nice cast, bolstered by legit actors like Amy Adams and Julianne Moore, along with a few fresher faces, too. And every one of them can really sing quite well. It’s true your lead Ben Platt is a little old to play a teenager but he did originate the role on Broadway to great acclaim, so I’m fine with a stage actor not being replaced by a flashier movie star for a change. You even dared to make some changes to the stage version, dropping some songs and adding others, diminishing some roles even as you expand others.
But at your core, you suffer from the same faults as your predecessor. You’re just too needy. And even worse, you use your neediness as a shield to deflect criticism. “Don’t you think teen suicide is important?” you taunt. “Isn’t mental illness and depression worth our attention?” you challenge your critics. “And isn’t social media the worst?” you throw at your naysayers.
“IT SURE IS HARD TO BE A TEEN!” you want to scream at us. But because you’re so sensitive and unsure of yourself, instead of a scream, you can only blurt it out in near-whispers, in oh-so-quiet songs of lament, one after another, after another.
Like Evan Hansen himself, you, “Dear Evan Hansen” the movie, you use a tragedy as a justification for manipulating people into liking you, even worse, loving you! Your very earnestness is, perhaps unintentionally, exploitative.
I understand you’re unsure of yourself, but your fake persona allows for the worst kind of self-aggrandizement. “I am an important film because I am dealing with Serious Social Issues,” you seem to insist. Unfortunately, the subject matter is far too heavy for such a shallow, lightweight vehicle as yourself.
I know it’s hard, but be honest. Only then, as your song says, will you be found.
Tom Tangney, Not Yet A Movie
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