'Dear Evan Hansen' brings red carpet glamor back to Toronto film fest

'Dear Evan Hansen' brings red carpet glamor back to Toronto film fest

Dear Evan Hansen brings red carpet glamor back to Toronto film fest

Julianne Moore led the stars onto the first Toronto film festival red carpet in two years on Sept. 9, as the movie adaptation of Broadway smash hit “Dear Evan Hansen” finally reopened North America’s biggest movie gathering.

The musical film about a teen battling isolation and loneliness drew audiences back in a city just recently emerging from one of the world’s longest COVID-19 lockdowns, which forced last year’s edition to take place almost entirely online. 

“It’s a very big moment - I love this festival,” Moore, who plays the student’s mother in the film, told AFP.

“I felt so lucky to be working on something that was so important and so much about the human condition at a time when people were really struggling,” she said.

The movie follows Evan, a teenager with social anxiety whose life is turned upside-down after a classmate kills himself.

It tackles themes of wanting to belong and the might of social media, as he finds himself trapped in a well-meaning but ever-deepening lie concerning the tragedy.

Opening on Broadway in 2016, the multiple Tony Award-winning stage version became arguably New York’s most successful new musical since “Hamilton,” propelling Ben Platt - who reprises his role on the big screen - to stardom.“I saw it very early on, right after they opened - Ben opened his mouth and started to sing and I’d never heard anything like it before in my life,” said Moore, who joins a starry cast including Amy Adams and Kaitlyn Dever.

While other major film festivals such as Venice and Cannes have appeared almost back to pre-pandemic “normal,” this year’s Toronto edition is a mixture of virtual and real-life screenings with reduced audience capacities. Stars are thinner on the ground than usual, although the likes of Jessica Chastain, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sigourney Weaver and “Dune” director Denis Villeneuve are expected to attend.       

Organizers were stymied by Canada’s strict border controls, with mandatory quarantine for most foreign visitors only lifted on Sept. 7.

The festival, which runs until Sept. 18, is showing dozens of films shot during the pandemic including “Dear Evan Hansen,” which was the first North American production to start up in the early, pre-vaccine days of last summer.