Movie reviews: new releases for September 24



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  • Colton Ryan and Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen

Dear Evan Hansen ** 1/2

There’s quite a treatise to write about all the things that were changed from the hit Broadway musical for this film adaptation, without addressing the fact that it probably could never work as a movie in the first place. It doesn’t help to have Ben Platt, who played a student ten years ago in Perfect– reprise his role on Broadway as high school student Evan Hansen, a lonely kid who gets tangled up in a knot of deception after a letter he writes to himself while a therapy exercise ends up in his pocket troubled classmate Connor Murphy (Colton Ryan), and is mistaken for Connor’s suicide note. Turning adolescent mental health crises into a farce has been a big red flag for many people, but spare the theatrical staging and serious emotions of the songs (by the The greatest showman/La La Land Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s team) played live can dodge some of these issues. In cinematic close-up, and with director Stephen Chbosky making questionable staging decisions for musical numbers, it becomes far too easy to focus on the nauseous aspects. Meanwhile, new songs and different plot points are added to address the less than heroic actions of some characters, in a way that feels like rearranging the proverbial lounge chairs on an iceberg-damaged ship. Some of the tracks are as charming as ever, while Julianne Moore and Amy Adams, as Evan and Connor’s respective mothers, bring some sincerity to the parenting pain. Meanwhile, those who like the stage version will be frustrated with the changes, and those who hate the concept as a general principle probably won’t think, “Oh, now it is repaired.” Available September 24 in theaters. (PG-13)

Ema * 1/2
Despite all the words at my disposal as a writer, sometimes I’m tempted to narrow it down to the gist of “This movie was stupid as shit.” There is at least one promising concept at the start of co-writer / director Pablo Larraín’s drama: a Chilean couple – dancer Ema (Mariana di Girólamo) and choreographer Gastón (Gael García Bernal) – see their relationship turned upside down when decide to give up their legal rights to the son they adopted, but who turns out to have serious emotional problems. A fascinating morality game could emerge from this notion, exploring what constitutes a “real” parent / child relationship, and whether Ema and Gaston’s choice was defensible or not. But Larraín is ultimately not interested in this idea as a whole, instead he embarks on a gripping and disturbing story of what Ema decides to do next. It’s a ridiculous trick, spiced up with a bunch of sex, dancing, and flamethrowers to distract from the fact that Larraín is announcing early enough what should have at least been a big reveal, even if it is. stupid, and then spend a few minutes explaining the obvious thing that was revealed. Not a moment of noticeable human emotion came out of di Girólamo’s performance, which at least could have been a frightening amusement in the hands of someone like, say, Paul Verhoeven. Instead, it’s just a missed opportunity – horny and overworked, yes, but stupid as shit. Available September 24 via (NR)

The Starling **
See the feature review. Available September 24 via Netflix. (PG-13)

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