Dear Evan Hansen goes for sincerity but it lacks awareness about its central character and has nothing interesting or deep to say about mental health.
Dear Evan Hansen’s initial marketing campaign sparked a lot of discussion surrounding Ben Platt, who originated the eponymous role in the 2015 Broadway stage musical of the same name, playing a teenager well into his late 20s. To his credit, he’s not the first or the last person to do so in films or on television. However, Platt playing a high school senior is the least of the movie musical adaptation’s problems. Directed by Stephen Chbosky from a screenplay by Steven Levenson, who also wrote the play with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Dear Evan Hansen goes for sincerity but it lacks awareness about its central character and has nothing interesting or deep to say about mental health.
Evan Hansen (Platt) has social anxiety disorder and is nervous about starting his senior year of high school. He doesn’t have any friends save for Jared (Nik Dodani), a “family friend” who feels like he has to hang out with Evan out of obligation. Evan likes Zoe Murphy (Kaitlyn Dever), but can’t get himself to talk to her. At the behest of his therapist and the encouragement of his hard-working mother Heidi (a wonderful Julianne Moore), Evan writes letters to himself about the ways in which his day will be a good one for him and why. Connor (Colton Ryan), Zoe’s brother, finds the letter and takes it with him after seeing Zoe’s name in it. He dies by suicide shortly thereafter. When Connor’s parents — Cynthia (Amy Adams) and Larry (Danny Pino) — show up at school wanting to talk to Evan about the letter, believing he and Connor were friends, Evan doesn’t correct them and continues on in the lie to get closer to Zoe.