There’s a lot of savage reviews of this movie which can be summed up as the protagonist is a sociopath and Ben Platt is too old to be playing him. I’ve seen the Broadway musical, and it’s fairly faithful to the show and most of you know as caregivers that people with SMI are challenging and can behave badly. So much for critics wanting challenging characters and difficult subjects. Critics engaged in a similar “I hate this musical more than the next guy” click-bait competition with Cats, but I think this movie deserves the dog-pile treatment much less.
Ben Platt originated the role and his portrayal of the character on stage is considered definitive, even if he was considered too old while the show was on Broadway. In many ways his portrayal and the premise of the show is too successful in daring to show the behaviors of people with SMI as sometimes duplicitous and unlikable. The movie isn’t without flaws, some adaptation changes casting choices and additions work, and some don’t. Hansen’s mother gets shortchanged, yet Conner’s now step-father is clarified and expanded. Evan’s escalating anxiety about how events spiral out of control gets muddled as compared to the stage version which could more easily stage cut scenes and vignettes.
I particularly enjoyed the choice of expanding the hyper-competent Alanna as a closeted functioning person with mental illness(es) for obvious reasons. This was hinted at in the musical, but the movie hits this and various other mental health nuances like suicide ideations more explicitly. A new scene and song was added which I found emotionally satisfying:
And that’s the thing: People go to musicals for a stylized emotional experience and of course to hear the music— not gritty realism. And on that score, I’ve seen very little criticism. No one is saying Ben Platt can’t sing, or the music is cloying or pitch-corrected or terrible. The main criticisms are songs were cut, and that Julianne Moore talk-sang her way through a song that has talk-singing sections. (I was actually surprised at the quality of her singing, since they cut most of her singing parts)
So if you can deal with the premise that the main character is inherently flawed due to his illness(es), but working on it, and like the scene and song above, you’ll probably enjoy the movie—despite what critics say.