This weekend, we’ve got a musical misfire (Dear Evan Hansen, starring Ben Platt and Kaitlyn Dever), and an emergency call gone awry (The Guilty, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Ethan Hawke), as well as a couple of hotly anticipated new streaming series. What are the critics saying?
Dear Evan Hansen (2021)
In a year chock full of musical adaptations, you’d think that one based on a multiple Tony Award-winner would be a sure thing… and you’d be wrong. Stephen Chbosky’s (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) Dear Evan Hansen, based on the 2016 Broadway musical of the same name, stars Ben Platt as the titular high school senior suffering from anxiety who’s been tasked by his therapist to write encouraging letters to himself. When a troubled classmate named Connor (Colton Ryan) nabs one of those letters, then later commits suicide, Connor’s parents believe Evan is the best friend they never knew their son had, and the misunderstanding quickly spirals out of Evan’s control. Critics say that the central premise of the story, which was already problematic on stage, is even more egregiously toxic now, and instead of embracing its inherent darkness, Chbosky and Co. insist upon wringing inspirational platitudes from it, much to the film’s detriment. The impressive cast also includes Kaitlyn Dever, Amy Adams, and Julianne Moore, and the musical numbers translate fairly well onto celluloid, but reviews say the whole enterprise feels a little tone deaf, which robs it of some of its power. It’s still probably worth a watch for fans of the original, but be prepared for a different experience here.
The Guilty (2021)
It’s usually a pretty risky proposition to center a film on a single actor in a single location, but fantastic results are possible (see: 2010’s Buried or 2013’s Locke). The latest to make the attempt is The Guilty — which is itself a direct remake of the 2018 Danish film of the same name. The new film, releasing in theaters this week and streaming on Netflix next week, is directed by Antoine Fuqua and stars Jake Gyllenhaal in the central role, Joe Baylor, an L.A. cop relegated to 9-1-1 dispatch duty who takes a call from a woman in the midst of a kidnapping. As Joe attempts to ascertain the woman’s whereabouts and get to the bottom of her story, he gradually learns that not everything is as it seems. Critics say The Guilty isn’t quite as gripping as its predecessor, but Antoine Fuqua knows his way around a tense, gritty thriller, and Jake Gyllenhaal brings his A-game to the table in a riveting performance that holds the film together.
An ambitious meditation on grief and faith that is as gorgeous as it is unsettling, Midnight Mass’s slow boil is a triumph of terror that will leave viewers shaking – and thinking – long after the credits roll.
Thumbnail image by Universal Pictures