Tag Archives: Ben Platt

‘Dear Evan Hansen’ Review

You know what they say about the road to Hell…

“Dear Evan Hansen” is based on the 2015 stage musical of the same name, and features Ben Platt reprising his titular role as a socially awkward high school student who finds himself caught up in a lie involving a recently deceased classmate. Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, Kaitlyn Dever, Amandla Stenberg, Nik Dodani, Danny Pino, and Colton Ryan also star while Stephen Chbosky directs.

I didn’t know much about this film until recently, not even that it was based off a successful musical (I assumed it had been a YA novel or something, since everything is based off an IP nowadays). There has been some heat on the internet surrounding the casting of 27-year-old Ben Platt (whose father also produced the film) as a high school student, as well as the questionable morality of the film’s plot, and while both of these are valid complaints that are hard to completely ignore while watching “Dear Evan Hansen,” the film makes up for it with some catchy songs and solid performances.

Ben Platt made his theatrical debut as a college student in 2012’s “Pitch Perfect” and here we are a full nine years later and he has regressed into high school. The film tries its best to pass him off as a fresh-faced teen but it is often hard to buy. Sometimes a performance or narrative is so engrossing that it is easy to ignore mid-20-somethings playing high schoolers (Tobey Maguire in “Spider-Man” or the entire cast of “Scream”) but here Platt is too distracting. His performance is solid enough, with some scenes of genuine emotion, but his singing is hit or miss (it may be the songwriters’ fault but his octaves just seem too high sometimes) and he has an ugly cry face (which doesn’t help the “looking old” thing).

I enjoyed Nik Dodani’s performance as Platt’s friend, he has a few amusing quips, and Kaitlyn Dever, whom I’ve been a fan of for years, continues to show why she is a rising star with some nice work as the sister of Platt’s deceased classmate. And God bless Amy Adams, even with a middling script like this she is determined to sell it. Playing a grieving mother desperate to latch onto any positive memory of her son, Adams is one of the only consistently genuine things about the film, and while it obviously won’t earn her another Oscar nomination to inevitably lose, it is a solid performance.

The musical was created by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the duo behind “La La Land” and “The Greatest Showman,” so obviously there are going to be a few banger songs and dance sequences. I particularly liked “Sincerely, Me,” while is pretty comical as well as probably the most toe-tapping of the whole film. Some of the other songs are entertaining, too, but there are some that seem out of place (and a few cringe-worthy “talk-sing” monologues).

People on Twitter have questioned the morality of the film, centering on a character who exaggerates his friendship with a dead student simply to make the parents feel better, and if that offends you then I can’t tell you that you’re wrong. It never stopped me from fully enjoying things as I think it is handled as well as one could possibly expect a premise like this to be handled, but it’s worth noting.

“Dear Evan Hansen” wears its heart on its sleeve and tries to be something a little different in the pretty worn teen drama genre. Not everything sticks and you feel the 136-minute runtime (this could’ve easily ran 100 minutes and been a better, slicker experience), but if you like your movies covered in cheese and built to contrive the tissues, then this is your ticket.

Critics Rating: 6/10

Streep Makes ‘Ricki’ Watchable

Ricki_and_the_Flash_posterWell, I’ll give Meryl Streep credit: she is definitely incapable of phoning in a bad performance.

“Ricki and the Flash” [insert long sigh at that title] stars Streep as an aging rock star who goes back home and try and make things right with her estranged family. Kevin Kline and Streep’s real-life daughter Mamie Gummer also star, as Jonathan Demme directs and Diablo Cody writes.

The trailer for this film made me roll my eyes every time I saw it (which, based on my addiction to movie theaters, means I saw it at least four times). It seemed sappy and standard and above all else cliché, but I still ended up seeing it. If you’re wondering why I saw it, it’s a combination of the aforementioned addiction and my friend and I honestly saying to one another, “hey, wouldn’t it be hilarious if we saw a 10am Friday showing of that new Meryl Streep movie? Like, as an ironic statement? Ha!” (I’m pretty sure it was a game of chicken that both of us just didn’t call the other’s bluff on). Anyways, getting off track, where was I?

Oh, right. “Ricki and the Flash” [sigh]. After seeing the film, I can confirm that it is sappy and standard and naturally clichéd, but darn it does Meryl Streep make it mostly watchable.

It is a lazy and obvious statement, but just in case you’ve lived under a rock the past 50 years: Meryl Streep is very good at acting. Had she never gotten her big break in movies, she could have become a very successful lawyer, or quarterback of the New England Patriots (Brady zing). And here she plays a role we have seen a hundred times in movies yet her dedication to the character is admirable. Ricki is the typical free spirit, “I live for rock and roll!” American gal, and while you understand her kids’ resentment towards her for never being there for them, you also empathize with her because she was doing following what she considered her dream, and only now is realizing she made the wrong decision.

If all you wanted to see from this movie was some family drama and Meryl Streep sing some cover songs, then you can stop reading now because you’ll get exactly what you desired from this experience. Anyone else, continue on with me. The biggest problem I have with “Ricki” is that almost none of the conflicts in the film are resolved, and the ones that are are done so quickly without any true effort that it is almost annoying.

The trailer paints the plot as Ricki needing to go home because her daughter’s husband left her, and that is the case; for about 40 minutes. Then Ricki leaves and goes back to LA where she has a “will they-won’t they” (they will) relationship with her band’s guitarist (Rick Springfield). I just never bought how she could constantly emasculate him on stage in front of their 12 adoring bar fans and yet he still would want her (I may have oversold how big a deal Ricki and the Flash are; they play at a bar in front of the same dozen people every night. It’s not like she left her family and sold her soul for fortune and fame).

Demme, known for other small musical comedies like “Silence of the Lambs” and “Rachel Getting Married,” sometimes makes the musical performances distracting, but overall the film is shot nice and tight and he gives the actors plenty of room to breathe and move around.

Look, my friend and I were the only people in the theater without AARP cards, so clearly this film was not made with me in mind. If you love Streep, 70’s music, and all the conflict of feuding families without any of the rewarding resolutions, then “Ricki and the Flash” (seriously, they couldn’t think of a better title?) is the film for you. Streep will get her Golden Globe nomination and the film will be forgotten by the time the leaves begin to turn orange. Everyone can go home happy.

Critics Rating: 5/10

Meryl Streep