Before I start, I’d like to give a warning for anyone who is uncomfortable with talk of suicide, mental illness, and self harm. These things are integral to the plot of this movie, and even though I’ll do my best to avoid sensitive topics where I can, some of them are unavoidable when talking about the film in general. That being said, let’s get on with the review.
I’m starting to think that Dear Evan Hansen gave ME depression while watching it. Not only is it by far one of the worst adaptations of a musical to a movie that I’ve ever seen, but it’s also one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. It’s plagued with so many problems with the writing, the pacing, the acting, the singing, the editing, the cinematography, and the themes that I’m absolutely certain, even while in the middle of writing this, that this is going to be a very long review.
For context, the play Dear Evan Hansen is about a boy that struggles from anxiety and depression being slowly drawn into an ever expanding web of lies after he is mistaken for the best friend of a boy who commits suicide. The movie Dear Evan Hansen is for the most part the same concept on paper, but there are several key changes that warp it into a significantly worse story with a message that ends up glorifying the main character for doing terrible things.
The biggest problem with the movie by far is the lead actor, Ben Platt. He’s the original actor for Evan in the Broadway production, and he’s the son of the producer. Without his direct involvement this movie would likely have never been made. He has even stated as much on social media on multiple occasions. This project is obviously nothing but a vehicle to start Ben’s REAL acting career, but I’m very happy to say that this vehicle is not the jet to fame that Ben was probably hoping for, and much more of a Hindenburg that crashed before it could even really get going.
Ben Platt is a 28 year old who looks like a 35 year old attempting to play a mentally ill 16 year old. In a Broadway production, this wouldn’t be a huge deal because audience members can’t really see the actors that well, thus the actors don’t have to get all of the minor details in makeup right to actually make the act look convincing. In a movie, however, they get no such luxury. Despite this, they did not recast the lead to be a younger or more convincing actor who could accurately portray the minutia required to play an anxiety ridden teenager.
This all results in a main lead, the character that takes up the vast majority of the runtime, that feels significantly less like a sympathetic teenager that stumbles into problems that he can’t handle, and significantly more like a manipulative psychopath that is abusing a family’s grief for the child they lost exclusively for personal gain. This also isn’t helped by the removal of several very key scenes from the Broadway production that serve to humanize him and to explain his motivations.
Platt’s overacted performance is especially jarring when comparing him to the other actors in the movie. Most of them are very subtle and controlled performances that do the subject matter justice, but it becomes difficult to notice the subtlety of those parts while Ben Platt is proudly giving his loud, overacted, rubbery mess of a performance. It’s even worse because the character Platt plays is written to be a quiet reserved kid that doesn’t want to be loud, and it becomes jarring when every single line of dialogue is delivered with the same bug eyed half yell that Ben does for Broadway.
There are problems with this movie besides Ben’s awful performance, though. There are several scenes that feel completely disconnected from the subject matter of the rest of the movie, including a scene where a character that has already died jumps around singing about how their death is making Evan famous. This wouldn’t be a problem in a musical comedy, like Heathers, but it’s an egregious break of theme for a film that tries to take itself seriously.
All of these alone would be enough for me to hate this movie, but there’s so much more I could mention. I could talk about how it constantly establishes plot points, only to drop them without ever resolving them. I could talk about how it doesn’t take time to develop any chemistry between the two main characters who are SUPPOSED to be in love. I could even talk about how the editors have absolutely zero idea how to edit group songs, using extremely awkward shots that don’t help relay the singing in the slightest. But it would all feel pointless because it’s all so connected that you’d be better off just watching the movie yourself to see how awful it is. On top of that, I’m frankly just tired of writing about this train wreck.
All of that said, I give Dear Evan Hansen my most sincere condemnation, and a 1/10.