Dear Evan Hansen mixes strong performances with a questionable story addressing mental health issues. Based on the popular stage musical, this film adaptation provides an interesting protagonist whose motivations make it difficult to feel towards him. While the musical aspect is executed tremendously, certain moments of singing feel ill-timed. Dear Evan Hansen was a huge hit back in 2015, but this movie is destined to leave audiences divided because of how it handles the subject matter.
Mental health issues plague many people day in and day out and for Evan, it’s his social anxiety. What begins as a dramatic story about a teenager struggling to fit in becomes a manipulative game. Sure, the film will have audiences contemplating tough subjects. But Evan’s character progresses into an unlikeable person to have the film centered on. Directed by Stephen Chbosky and written by Steven Levenson, Dear Evan Hansen stars Ben Platt, Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, Kaitlyn Dever, Amandla Stenberg, and Colton Ryan.
The film follows Evan Hansen (Platt), a teen trying to cope with social anxiety by writing letters to himself after his therapist recommends it. Evan’s letter ends up in the hands of Connor (Ryan), a classmate who commits suicide. This event takes Evan on a journey that allows him to finally be accepted by his peers. Details disclosed about Evan throughout this film are in great supply, and that’s not an exaggeration. Evan is in high school, has social anxiety, goes to therapy, and might be a sociopath. His relationship with his mother (Moore) is almost nonexistent because he believes himself to be a bad son.
Dear Evan Hansen wants to take audiences on this self-discovery mission with Evan, but how it unfolds will make it a hard watch for some. The character of Evan is well developed, and there is a lesson he learns from this. However, Evan’s likable qualities are undone by his manipulative behavior in an attempt to finally be accepted. It does speak to how troubled he is, which should make him likable, but the lives he’s playing with are what creates an issue. Connor’s family is played like fools while Evan propels himself to social acceptance. Levenson’s screenplay is equally frustrating and thought-provoking, so it doesn’t translate into an enjoyable watch.
It’s not a poorly made movie, but its message is lost in the events that unfold on screen. Platt reprises his role as Evan Hansen and fans of the play should enjoy this aspect. He delivers a great performance as Evan and the singing along the way keeps you invested in the progression of this character. The performances are incredible to watch on screen. Platt’s age might be an issue for some, but he’s believable in this role. Chobsky’s direction keeps emotions high throughout most of this two-hour-long film. But when the vocals kick in, audiences might find it difficult to grow attached to any of these characters.
When the vocals kick in, all eyes and ears will be locked into each word. Some moments, such as when Evan’s lies are exposed, make the exceptional vocals feel out of place and unnecessary. It could be argued that the musical aspect should have been abandoned, but that could have been too big of a departure from the source material. Dear Evan Hansen impresses and then it disappoints, sometimes all at once during certain scenes. A compelling film that could have addressed mental health in a better way.
Dear Evan Hansen will leave audiences divided and that will at least spark important conversations. Strong performances keep you engaged, but the character of Evan isn’t going to sit right with many viewers. The success that the coming-of-age stage musical had won’t translate the same for this film adaptation. Dear Evan Hansen is a mixed bag that will have audiences talking.