Sometimes you can’t hide age
By Angelika Leal, Contributor
When it’s obvious that a 17-year-old student on the screen is an actor almost twice their age, it’s obvious.
When it was first announced, the idea of Ben Platt reprising his Dear Evan Hansen Broadway role as the titular character was exciting—and I’m sure that many other fans of the play would agree. How often does one ever get to watch a high-quality version of the original broadway cast in their favourite play? Aside from Legally Blonde on MTV (2007) or Hamilton on Disney (2020), the answer is absolutely never.
However, one thing that I realized a week or two after watching the Dear Evan Hansen film in theatres, was that there is a startling difference between seeing Platt’s performance through a blurry bootleg taken by someone sitting 100 rows away and seeing it in row 23 while Platt’s face is blown up on the 70-foot giant Cineplex screen.
And it’s not as though Platt isn’t a brilliant performer, vocal and acting-wise, it’s just that he wasn’t the smartest choice for the role, despite him being the OG actor.
You see, film and television have this strange tendency to have grown adults portray teenagers and expect people to overlook it. Some people could easily pass for a high school student if asked (ex. Platt’s co-stars, Kaitlyn Dever and Amandla Stenberg, who are in their early twenties ). When it’s obvious that a 17-year-old student on the screen is an actor almost twice their age, it’s obvious.
Some moments where Evan is in a scene with his love interest Zoe Murphy (played by Dever) get very uncomfortable to watch when their age differences (28 and 22, respectively) look way too grand for them to be a believable average teenaged couple going to prom together.
It certainly didn’t help the backlash against Platt when he insisted that this film “wouldn’t have happened if he wasn’t playing the lead”. Given that his father, Marc Platt, was the influential producer, there was likely some truth to that statement.
Furthermore, no matter how heartfelt solos or catchy group numbers were featured, it’s hard to ignore that: A) It’s super awkward to watch characters sing emotionally with the camera trained close-up on their face for more than fifteen seconds, and B) I was nowhere remotely close to feeling any sort of empathy for Evan throughout the movie.
This sentiment was shared by one of my friends who said, “Not gonna lie, I’m glad he didn’t get the girl in the end; he was an asshole.”
Though I should’ve come to this conclusion when I first heard of this story many years ago, when the movie has so many things going wrong, one just keeps looking for problems.
However, despite the heavy criticism online, I wouldn’t agree that this movie is Cats level bad as a movie-musical – mostly because I don’t believe that there’s anything that could ever reach the level of horrifying that was cat and roach bodies with oddly disturbing CGI human faces.