A musical phenomenon makes its way from Broadway to the big screen courtesy of Universal. Dear Evan Hansen will be prevalently relatable in its broader themes but it has issues way beyond Ben Platt trying to pass off as an awkward 17 year old high-schooler.
Written by Alex Gilston
Dear Evan Hansen tells the story of the titular character, a high school student who is lonely and suffering with anxiety and depression. When a letter Evan writes himself gets into the hands of Connor who days later takes his own life, his parents believe that he wrote the letter for Evan, who from that moment finds himself embroiled in a big lie that completely changes his status at the school.
Ben Platt reprises the role of Evan Hansen from Broadway and from the offset the believability factor of Platt, who is nearing 30, being a 17 year old is on the wrong foot. It brings an instant off putting vibe that can’t be shaken for the film's way overdrawn 2 hour and 15 minute run time. With it already being so painfully long it’s hard to believe that this is a version where various songs from the stage musical have been cut out.
The way that the film deals with its main subject matter, Mental Health, is as irredeemable as Evan Hansen himself. Although the initiation of the lie was a mistake the lengths that he goes to throughout the rest of the film leaves room for a terrible amount of wincing and eye rolling. Towards the end of the film his attempts to atone for what he has done just comes across as deeply insincere and leaves no room for the sympathy that the film is clawing for. A moment of respite does come at the midway point of Dear Evan Hansen when ‘You Will Be Found’ is sung. Although this moment does feel superficial and nothing more than surface level fluff, its message of togetherness in the wider conversation about mental health still feels somewhat effective.
From watching Dear Evan Hansen it is clear that Ben Platt is incredibly talented, and if anything it makes one long to have seen one of his performances on the stage back in 2015 and not the forced, uncanny valley, adult-teenager weirdness we get here. The other clear standout talent here is Kaitlyn Dever. Although 17 is also quite a few years behind her, she played her character a lot more convincingly and her vocals are a match for Platt himself.
Beyond some talented performances and voices, Dear Evan Hansen delivers nothing of what a musical should bring. In the end Evan feels content with how things have turned out, but as an audience member it’s hard to share that feeling, having seen the terrible things that he has done throughout the film. Its translation from stage to screen, and the very clear cuts, has left it hollow, without a true direction and message which is what makes this so truly disappointing. Some original stage musicals shouldn’t be adapted into films, and Dear Evan Hansen is, unfortunately, solid proof of that.