The Dear Evan Hansen movie trailer is finally out, and it’s certainly got tongues wagging.
It’s the casting of Ben Platt, 27, as the lead role: a 17-year-old high school student.
Trying to view this fully grown man as a convincing kid has proved a little too challenging for scores of social media viewers.
Instead, it has simply reminded them of all the times older actors have played adolescents in TV shows and films.
Notable examples include Grease – whose oldest main cast member Stockard Channing (Rizzo) was an eyebrow-raising 33 years old at the time; Clueless’s Stacy Dash, who was 29 when she played 16-year-old Dionne; and Mean Girls star Rachel McAdams, who was 26 when she took up the iconic role of high school queen bee Regina George.
Of course, sometimes an age disjunct is intentional – as in the case of 30 Rock when Steve Buscemi’s character attempts to infiltrate a high school as a police officer, or Never Been Kissed when Drew Barrymore plays Josie Gellar, a reporter sent to work undercover at her old high school.
Either way, the inevitable memes Platt’s casting has generated have been a highlight of Twitter this week:
Still, the new film’s director Stephen Chbosky has defended his decision to put the 27-year-old in the title role.
In an interview with Vanity Fair released alongside the trailer, Chbosky said Platt was the only man who could do Evan Hansen justice.
“You just have to hear him sing the songs,” the director, best known for The Perks of Being A Wallflower, explained.
“His understanding of the character is so complete and so profound. I couldn’t imagine anybody else playing it. It’s his part. I felt very strongly about it. And to me it was never even a consideration.”
Platt won a Tony for his role in the Broadway musical, playing the protagonist on-and-off for two years from 2014 to 2016.
His final stage performance was in November 2017, by which point he was already in his mid 20s and pushing the audience’s ability to suspend disbelief over his age.
But the unforgiving light of the cinematic closeup makes his transformation into an isolated teen struggling at school even harder to digest.
In addition, some viewers have argued that getting a man 10 years his senior to play Evan Hanson makes the character’s actions – which include lying about the nature of his relationship with a classmate who died by suicide – more difficult to accept.
“Ben playing Evan Hansen in the movie is going to make me less forgiving of Evan’s actions,” one Twitter user wrote.
“Instead of seeing a seventeen-year-old making mistakes I’m seeing a grown a** man lying.”
We wish Platt, and the Dear Evan Hansen team, good luck. And don’t forget, no publicity is bad publicity...