The film adaptation of the Tony Award winning musical drama Dear Evan Hansen hits theaters September 24. Directed by Stephen Chbosky (who made the 2012’s acclaimed indie The Perks of Being a Wallflower and 2017’s blockbuster Wonder), Hansen recasts Ben Platt in the title role. The supporting cast features Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, Kaitlyn Dever, and Amandla Stenberg.
Premiering at the Toronto Film Festival, the cinematic version has not garnered the same kudos that it did on Broadway. The Rotten Tomatoes score is 47% and many are griping about Platt (now in his late 20s) portraying a high schooler.
I might be a little more optimistic if Hansen had Oscar vibes going for it, but that’s been silenced by the critics. That said, there is a built-in audience familiar with the play and that could help. The same could have been said for this summer’s In the Heights, which majorly underperformed.
My projection is that this doesn’t quite reach double digits.
Dear Evan Hansen opening weekend prediction: $8.6 million
Ben Platt has won a Tony, Emmy, and Grammy for his performance in the Broadway sensation Dear Evan Hansen. The cinematic version of the play comes from director Stephen Chbosky, best known for 2012’s acclaimed The Perks of Being a Wallflower and 2017’s hit Wonder.
Hansen has opened the Toronto Film Festival with Platt reprising his role. Costars include Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, and Kaitlyn Dever. The teen musical drama (where the 27-year-old Platt is a teen) is drawing wildly mixed reactions from critics – as evidence by its current 50% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Some are being kind while others are excoriating it.
That’s not a recipe for Oscars attention as I see it. Simply stated, its detractors should be loud enough to keep this out of contention. One possible exception could be a couple of original songs.
Bottom line: Platt’s EGOT is highly unlikely to happen with Hansen. My Oscar prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…
Stephen Chbosky’s Wonder is a film, based on description, that might have you fretting it will attempt to bludgeon you into tears with sentimentality. A child with a facial deformity entering public school for the first time could be a recipe for mawkish overload. Yet I’ll be darned if Wonder doesn’t earn its tears (both sad and happy) at a rather astonishing percentage.
The child is Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), born with Treacher Collins syndrome. Going into the fifth grade, Auggie has been home schooled by mom Isabel (Julia Roberts) thus far and been somewhat sheltered from the inevitable bullying and strange looks that greet him. This all changes when he attends a Manhattan middle school. He finds the bullies, but he also finds many kind hearts in the children and adults who populate it.
In Auggie’s story, we do find similarities to 1985’s similarly effective Mask with Eric Stoltz as the outsider kid and Cher as the strong mom. What I didn’t expect here is the number of subplots involving other characters and how powerful they are.
Auggie’s older sister Via (Izabela Vidovic) has the opposite emotional issues as her cherished brother. While Auggie often wishes to just be invisible (his favorite holiday is Halloween because his mask lets him at last be just another kid), Via wishes to be seen. Her mom and dad (Owen Wilson) are consumed with her sibling and his struggles. Her best friend (Danielle Rose Russell) isn’t paying attention to her. Via’s story line is often just as touching as her brother’s.
That’s a testament to a well constructed screenplay based on R.J. Palacio’s bestselling novel. The picture takes time to explain the actions of those around Auggie, including the school children who befriend him and those that choose not to. A weaker script would have turned his classmates into caricatures, but this one knows better.
As he proved in 2015’s Room, Tremblay is a one heck of a child actor. He’s unrecognizable here and he gives another powerhouse performance. Roberts and Wilson provide solid support, as does Mandy Patinkin as the wise principal of the school. And as mentioned, Vidovic shines in the big sister role that a lesser movie wouldn’t have even paid attention to.
It’s a thin line between a film trying to guilt you into throat lumps over warranting them. Wonder has a message of kindness that we could all use from time to time. That messages comes across well and this viewer felt the screenplay more than justified the several occasions of mistiness it caused.
Stephen Chbsoky’s Wonder opens on Friday and reviews out today reveal that it could be more than the umpteenth film to feature the word “wonder” in the title. Seriously, there’s been five.
The pic is adapted from a R.J. Palacio novel and casts Jacob Tremblay as a young boy with a facial deformity in public school. Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson play his parents. Truth be told, I kind of assumed Wonder wasn’t much of a candidate for positive reviews. Yet it’s getting them. Variety went as far to say it deserved to be in the same company as 1980’s TheElephantMan and 1985’s Mask, which both had similar themes. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised considering Chbsoky’s previous directorial effort, 2012’s ThePerksofBeingaWallflower, received critical praise.
How will this translate to Oscar attention? It most likely won’t, but its chances look better today than yesterday at least. That said, a Best Picture nod is unlikely. Lionsgate could push Tremblay in Supporting Actor and there’s plenty who feel the youngster should have been nominated for 2015’s Room, in which his costar Brie Larson won Actress.
That’s probably a long shot, too. The best hope for Wonder is that its solid reviews thus far will translate to a nice box office showing. And just maybe it could factor into Adapted Screenplay, which is looking less crowded than Original Screenplay right now.
Jacob Tremblay made quite an impression on audiences and critics two years ago as an abducted child in the Oscar nominated Room. Next weekend, he headlines the drama Wonder, portraying a child with a facial deformity trying to fit into a new school. The film is based on a 2012 novel by R.J. Palacio and is directed by Stephen Chbosky, best known for making the adaptation of his own novel – 2012’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson are cast as Tremblay’s parents.
Wonder will attempt to bring in both female and family audiences. For family audiences, there is the animated The Star opening against it (though that should skewer younger) and a little something called Justice League that lots of kids may want to see (though that should skewer more to younger males).
As I see it, I don’t look for Wonder to necessarily have an impressive opening. Low double digits to possibly lower teens seems about right. That said, if audiences like it and if it achieves solid word-of-mouth, it could play well into the Thanksgiving weekend that follows and beyond.