(Not long into Dear Evan Hansen, I realized the best audience I could write to would be myself as a High School Senior.)
Dear Mark A. Lester (circa 2005),
This is you, 16 years from the future, and while you have good reason to think this not true, let me reassure it is valid. As a Senior, you are undoubtably getting toward the end of your last year of Marching Band (you will miss it), and are stoked (that means “excited” in the future) as you are on the Homecoming Court.
I can’t tell you much of what happens in the future, as it goes against time travel and is all “wibbly-wobbly” (that will be a popular phrase in later years for you). I don’t have much time (again, time travel), so I will be brief.
First, don’t worry: Mom and Dad will soon cave in and get you a cell phone. It won’t be much to look at, but it is a start.
Second, keep up with your fascination with movies: you are still the go to guy even now, years later. It will help you against many films in the future, like the one I (well, we) just saw.
It is called Dear Evan Hansen. It is an musical adaptation of the 2018 Tony winning musical of the same name. The titular character (played by Ben Platt) suffers from Social Anxiety Disorder as he starts off his senior year. Like you (again, us), he has his doubts and concerns. He is also not popular in any way shape or form (unlike us, and our popularity is still thriving somehow. Don’t ask.)
His therapist has him write himself notes, and one day they fall in the hands of another student named Connor (Colton Ryan). Days later, Evan is informed by Connor’s parents that their son has committed suicide, with nothing on him except the note. The parents think that Connor wrote the note to Evan, and Evan goes along with it.
Admittedly, I am trying to think of a word I used when I was you, but nowadays the most common word would be “cringe”. Keep in mind that this is a musical. That is not to say that the movie sings happily about the suicide, but the songs are, for the most part, rather upbeat. I know that you (we, us, you get it I hope by now) have been aware of teen suicide before, but these days, it is much more in the public knowledge.
Most of the actors are not entirely at fault, although it is clear to see that Ben Platt does not look at all like he should be in High School (he is in his mid 20s). We know this has always been something that Hollywood has done, using adults to play teenagers (looking at you, Grease), but sometimes people can pull it off, including in this movie, where the talented Kaitlyn Dever plays the deceased kids sister Zoe, who is also Evan’s love interest. Others in the cast include Amandla Stenberg, Amy Adams, and Julianne Moore.
There are some nice sounding songs, but none are entirely memorable. This is mainly due to the fact that, behind these songs, we know this lie that Evan has told is getting beyond out of control. He is becoming very famous, and is a star on social media (side note: nowadays, Social Media is like Myspace, only much bigger, better, and scarier). In all the years that you have gone to the movie theater, you have never walked out on a film. This one had a moment where I really had to will myself to stay in my seat.
What is strange is how popular this musical was when it came out, even amongst teens. While the movie is PG-13 (no sexual stuff, some swearing though which includes the F word), the dark material is not entirely suitable for kids. I saw some younger kids around 11 or 12, and was a bit surprised.
Even more surprising is that the film is directed by Stephen Chbosky. He will be the director of some films you will enjoy when they come out, such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) and Wonder (2017). These are much better, grounded films that deal with the troubles of coming of age, and I hope that others in my time seek them out instead.
Unlike your time in 2005 , there are a lot more stage musicals getting either a theatrical release or a remake (there is remake coming at the end of 2021 that you would not believe is happening if I told you). It is true that some will work, but the ones that don’t will fail spectacularly (not to terrify you, but there is a movie musical in the future about CATS).
Well, that is all I have the time for. Do keep watching all the movies you can, for that is who you are, and is one of the things people love about you.
…oh, and beware of the year 2020. It will be a rough one.
PS: I just realized that, due to the laws of time travel, you will completely forget that this ever happened, which I assume most of those who are in Dear Evan Hansen would wish about the movie.
My bad, me.