Dear Evan Hansen

Dear Evan Hansen ½

As Tarantino understood, King Kong can be read as a metaphor for the Black experience in America, of white civilization’s simultaneous fascination with, fear and exploitation of Africa and its natural and human resources. Dear Evan Hansen suggests that it can also be read simply as an allegory for what happens when a star Broadway attraction is unleashed upon the general public who can only react with revulsion and terror.

You’ve already heard (and probably made) all of the jokes about Platt looking approximately 38, but it’s impossible to overstate that beyond looking old he just looks like an insane person. Every close-up has “ticking time bomb” energy as he gazes at people the way starving cartoon characters watch their compatriots transform into succulent turkey legs before their hallucinating eyes. His cavalcade of nervous tics is done no favors by editing that is constantly calling attention to them, with close-ups of his wildly trembling hands or shifty eyes. Platt plays the part exactly like he must have on stage, which makes each god-awful decision to film him like he’s giving an understate performance all the more disastrous. His head jiggles like a Jello mold and I’ve never seen a professional actor have less idea where to put his arms. Lit like a Universal monster and shuffling about with his shoulders hunched, Platt looks like Igor from Frankenstein until his weird chipmunk smooth jowls turn him into Odo from DS9.

The dialogue in this is unreal, like everyone beamed in from another planet. When Evan mumbles that he and Connor went to “the trees” like a madman and Amy Adams replies “you don’t mean the orchard, do you?” I felt like my brain was boiling in its own cranial fluid. The cadence of every conversation is so out of sync it’s like listening to Steve Reich’s early tape loop experiments. It’s impossible to tell what time period this takes place in based on how the kids act. When Evan tells Zoe his parents are divorced, she looks him with a truly inexplicable pity for someone ostensibly alive in our present. Things only gets worse when the musical becomes, you know, a musical, at which point baffling match cuts and British TV dissolves call attention to how little actual connection there is between the characters and how the gaping void of characterization at the center of this story forces each major figure to be constantly rewritten on the fly to fit the emotional tone of each moment.

From the production design to the choreography to the editing, this doubles down on the fact that for most Americans the closest thing they have to musicals is Old Navy commercials; every single location is overlit (save for the area directly under Platt’s Jimmy Neutron ass jaw) and downright parodic in the plethora of first-grader construction paper posters about diversity at school or the Murphys completely unlived-in showroom home. The song numbers have no rhythm in either the writing nor the construction, with mismatched cuts and wild emotional variability in the actors’ lip-synching even when their voices are not rising or lowering. Watch the bit where a glassy dissolve slams into Dever contemplating suicide by speeding up her car toward a small hill before slamming on the brakes in a suddenly flat stretch of suburb road to see how little anyone could be bothered. All of the songs sound the same and approximately 75% of the choreography is walking slowly around a bedroom or down a school hall.

Right around the time of the oafish montage of going viral (“HIS BEST FRIEND DIED…YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HE DID NEXT” made me almost throw up from laughing) I left my corporeal self behind. The redemptive denouement is too absurd to even contemplate, a) because it suggests that a completely superficial engagement with a person’s hobbies is empathy and b) the material has never once truly condemned Evan for letting a lie get away from him, instead relentlessly placing him as a victim of circumstance and misapprehension. Not to mention, everyone else in the movie is as evil and completely incapable of empathy for another human being as himself. Nightmare movie.

Jake liked this review