Released: 9th December
Seen: 18th December
Dear “Dear Evan Hansen”,
Today was going to be an amazing day, and here’s why. Because today all you had to do was just be a decent movie. Not even a great movie, I think we both know you were never going to be great but good would’ve done us both a whole lot of good after the kind of year we’ve both had. I know you’ve had quite the bad year yourself what with all the people throwing mud your way since your little trailer came out and expecting you to be the next Cats. Well, I have good news Dear Evan Hansen, you’re not the next Cats… cos I’d go and see Cats again.
Ok, dropping the “Letter to Evan” gimmick because as tempting as it might be to do that for the entire piece, it’s too fun a format to suit this movie because Dear Evan Hansen is just quite simply an awful film. The problems begin with the basic plot of the thing, how Evan Hansen (Ben Platt) writes a letter to himself for therapy that ends up in the hand of an asshole jock named Connor (Colton Ryan) who ends up killing himself because, while he’s absolutely an asshole to everyone, he’s also secretly depressed and no one ever noticed.
Anyway, the letter he stole from Evan is on his body at the time he’s found by his parents who believe it to be a letter Connor wrote to Evan, leading to a believe that Evan and Connor were best friends and yes Dear Evan Hansen is an entire film based upon a very stupid lie that will inevitably be revealed in the third act only this is the most vile kind of lie imaginable because this gave the parents of a dead kid false hope about their son… and we are, on some level, meant to sympathise with Evan. Sorry, can’t do it, hate him.
Not only is the character just impossible to like, he is horribly miscast or at very least, the costume department did Ben Platt dirty. Look, we can all just cop to the reality that Ben Platt looks way too old to be in this movie and that’s for a myriad of reasons, one of the big ones being that the entire school is filled with people who look a decade younger than him so he sticks out.
I’ve seen adults play teenagers before in ways that work because they blend into the rest of the cast (Look at Cory Monteith in the early seasons of Glee or literally everyone in Grease!) but Platt stands out… possibly because the hairstyle they gave him adds a decade to his face, possibly because he is emoting so much that it makes the age issue stand out but whatever is happening it’s not on Ben. It’s on the people who either put that wig on his head or didn’t turn away from the monitor and remind him “Hey, that’s not a theatre full of people… that’s an HD camera, you don’t need to push so hard all the time”.
When you break down Dear Evan Hansen as a film you realise that it’s mostly just proof that sometimes you should just do a proshot of the stage show because you can’t adapt everything from stage to screen. Are there sequences in this film that take advantage of the medium? Sure, the entire Sincerely Me number where Evan and his friend are pretending to write correspondence between Evan and Connor might be the one time that they really take advantage of editing tricks to sell the joke… I guess we can count the shots of Evan climbing a tree because I assume Ben Platt doesn’t want to fall from a tall tree on stage half a dozen times but other than that? No, this could’ve – should’ve – just been a filming of the stage show.
If this was a filming of the stage show, the performance problem where everyone is playing to the back room of a theatre wouldn’t matter that much. Even with a filmed version of a stage show we allow for a little overacting because we collectively understand that this person is trying to sell their performance to someone 50 rows away from them, but in film it just doesn’t work… and THEN we get to the bigger problem of Dear Evan Hansen just not being a good story or musical in general (in my opinion, calm down).
Look, I know that some people like Dear Evan Hansen and that’s fine. It won a ton of Tonys including for Best Musical and I’m sure when it returns to Broadway it’ll play to packed houses but the film lays bare all the problems with the story. You can’t pretend Evan is just a good guy getting swept up in the moment, you can’t just go with the flow of events because film time and theatre time are different and thus you can lose track of how long it’s been between events (the fact it takes three days for the kids in the school to learn about Connor’s death is the least realistic thing I’ve ever heard in my life) and you can’t root for the characters because everyone who we’re asked to root for is kind of a dick… the only good person might be Connor’s mom (Amy Adams) but only because she’s a distraught grieving mother, hard not to feel bad about that.
Dear Evan Hansen tries so hard to deal with the obscenely heavy subject of mental health, trying to get across the idea that everyone is going through something and maybe we all need a little help but… I’m sorry, that message was done better by Crazy Ex-Girlfriend which had a protagonist who actively did bad things but we could still like her. You can’t do that here… hell, there’s a scene in Dear Evan Hansen that’s just Evan and someone else talking about the medications they’re on and it’s hard not to think “This was so much better when the Crazy Ex Girlfriend cast sang about how Antidepressants Are So Not A Big Deal”
This is before we touch on the fact that Evan spends all of Dear Evan Hansen basically trying to take over Connor’s life after he dies, implanting himself as part of this grieving family because he never had a daddy of his own… so it’s Single White Male: The Musical, only worse because I imagine they’d hire better songwriters for a show like that. I could spend another dozen paragraphs complaining about just how creepy he gets at times… and that the character who actually commits suicide is basically just a prop for plot purposes without a character of his own, and just the bland bland songs and all the other problems with this film but I’m already well over 1000 words here and god damn do I not want to make this the longest review on this blog because I’d rather just forget Dear Evan Hansen exists.
At the end of this overlong and boring review of Dear Evan Hansen, I guess my message is… don’t bother watching this, it’s not even bad in a funny way. Just go watch Crazy Ex Girlfriend if you want an intelligent musical about mental health with catchy songs where everyone looks age appropriate and you won’t just feel like utter garbage afterwards.