Review: ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ misses the mark


Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

Dear Evan Hansen is not a good movie.

I’ll start by saying I did like one of the musical numbers in this: I think it was called “Sincerely Me” and I thought it creatively pushed the plot forward, felt interactive with the characters, and had good energy to it. 

The rest of the musical numbers blended together after a while: starting with a slow piano or guitar and ending with the singer belting it out like it’s the climax of the whole movie, with the lyrics just vague enough to where they could be listened to outside of the musical itself, the “Greatest Showman” effect as I call it.

You’ve probably heard the “Ben Platt Old” jokes by now but it seriously is a big problem of the movie. If you don’t know, Ben Platt reprises his role as Evan Hansen, having played it on Broadway, the problem is that now he is 28-years-old playing 17. Not once did I look at his old face caked in makeup and think he could be a high school senior. I understand this is a common flaw in many teen movies, especially older ones like Grease, but it’s one of many flaws that can’t be overlooked if this wants to be taken seriously. 

The dialogue is unrealistic like that of a cheesy high school comedy, but it’s not supposed to be funny and doesn’t fit with how serious this wants to be. It’s also quite clear how little these writers understand teens, you’ll see multiple scenes where every single person gets a text message at the same time or friends communicate through email.

The cinematography was awkward with many jarring centered shots of characters, and the romantic subplot had less than no chemistry until suddenly they were singing a love song. 

My biggest issue with this movie is how it goes about its themes. This is a movie about mental health, but it doesn’t have anything to say about it. Once the “Connor Project” is introduced, a foundation for Connor’s suicide, the themes are quite literally yelled to the audience “you will be found.” 

Not only are these themes completely surface level with no room for interpretation, but the film practically praises itself for it. Evan’s big speech is met with tons of positive feedback from people online, but none of it is real, so unless this is secretly a documentary it feels like the movie patting itself on the back. 

If there is something new to be said about mental health in this movie it’s that it’s an excuse for borderline psychopathic behavior, which it isn’t and I don’t think that is the message. 

The film also kind of forgets about Connor, the character whose suicide is the center of the plot surrounds. We never truly learn about him and his death is more of a plot device to be manipulated than anything real, which reminded me of Twin Peaks which criticizes this kind of thing while better exploring the impact of a death on those surrounding it.

For better films about mental health, go watch Bo Burnham: Inside or even this director’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower.