Rooster Revue #16 • In Defense of Evan Hansen
The movie is really not that bad! Here's why.
In this issue we take a look at the Dear Evan Hansen movie to see if it's really as bad as everyone is saying it is.
• Tilda Swinton, George MacKay, Stephen Graham will star in a new movie musical about the last human family. [The Wrap]
• New trailer for Tick Tick… Boom [YouTube]
• Trailer release for Cyrano, the new musical from Joe Wright, starring Peter Dinklage. [YouTube]
• First look at Timothée Chalamet as Willy Wonka in the new movie musical, which he has been recording songs at Abbey Road. [Collider]
• RIP to Leslie Bricusse, songwriter behind Dr. Dolittle and Willy Wonka. [Washington Post]
Directed by Stephen Chbosky Written By Steven Levenson Music & Lyrics by Pasek and Paul Review by Mandrews
While it’s all the rage to rag on the Dear Evan Hansen movie, we feel it is our duty to stand in its defense because, despite its flaws, it took big risks in its filmmaking, most of which were successful, all of which should be applauded.
The story is the most problematic part of the movie. But the story has ALWAYS been problematic—and good effort was made to fix some of the story problems.
A big criticism the film is getting is cutting the scenes of Evan talking to the ghost of Connor. These scenes helped to justify his actions more clearly, and without them Evan seems like a sociopath. Well here’s the thing, if you need a ghost in your story to prove a character is not a sociopath, the character is probably a sociopath.
The reason Connor was most likely cut out is that the rules in film and stage musicals are different. In film, you generally are allowed to use one cheat device (ie. narration, internal voice over, breaking the fourth wall). Hearing a character’s internal thoughts is cheating. So is having a character sing their feelings. Having both would have been too much.
That being said, I don’t think Evan is a sociopath nor did I have difficulty justifying his behaviour. I see him as a sad character given the opportunity to rewrite his own story into a version more bearable to live with.
Giving credit where credit is due, Director Stephen Chbosky was able to successfully shy away from spectacle and focus on keeping the musical numbers as stripped down and grounded as possible. Our movie musical manifesto at The Barn encourages grounded performances, live singing, non-staged, and story focused songs. This movie ticked all the boxes. The result? Well, a very divided audience. But I don’t think the filmmaking was the biggest contributing factor here. For a big budget Broadway adaptation to approach the material in this way is downright revolutionary.
But because of how sensitive the subject matter is, was there another option? To put in a pretty package with a bow would have been to glamorize suicide. It seems like a case of form follows function, which brought us a movie entirely unexpected. Part of me wonders how and why this story became the Broadway sensation it became, but I am thankful it did because otherwise this strange movie would not exist.
One of the most challenging things for a movie musical is transitioning into the first song and Dear Evan Hansen does it is very effectively by transitioning from a cacophony of internal anxiety induced thoughts into “Waving Through A Window.”
“Sincerely, Me” is certainly a stand-out number that uses filmmaking to its advantage, utilizing multiple locations, using the frame of the film in hilarious ways, and using clever cuts to make the song even funnier than it should be. It’s also the only song that provides levity in an otherwise pretty heavy movie.
Most of the songs in the movie are just 2-3 people singing in a room and, for the most part, this works successfully thanks to an incredible cast. This is probably a strange take but “Words Fail” may have been my favorite moment in the movie. It just really leaned into the half spoken/half singing type of scene and pushes the form to the brink of collapsing, and yet it doesn’t. It almost felt like an experimental film, and I mean that in the best way possible.
The song “Requiem” was the least effective, utilizing cheesy pans and cross dissolves to a nauseating effect, and living in a space that leaned too far into soap opera territory. It just was devoid of the genuine emotions coursing throughout most of the movie.
The Elephant in the Room
Was Ben Platt the best choice for the role? Yes, yes he was.
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"Rooster Revue" is edited by Matt Andrews and Jeffrey Simon with contributions from the entire team at The Barn. Read past issues in the archive.