Dear Evan Hansen (2021)

dir. Stephen Chbosky

Dear Evan Hansen might well be the best ever example of a film trying so hard to be seen saying something that it says nothing at all. Its musings on teen drama, suicide, mental health, love, family, and maturity are completely undermined by its tick-box approach to each of these concepts. Our high school protagonist Evan (played distractingly by an actor quite obviously in his mid-to-late twenties) cuts an infuriating figure, whose deceit and manipulation are supposed to be excused by his depression and social awkwardness. He lies about a dead person, objectifies his love interest, abandons his friends, and is hideously rude to his mother; his singing bland songs with wide-eyed angst does not mitigate his toxic behaviour, no matter what the movie might think. Of course, Evan’s not the only one with bland songs – with a glaring sole exception (which actually dares to use humour), every single song is a cut-and-paste of typical modern ballad fare. None of this even touches on the film’s strange approach to LGBTQ+ issues; where the connotations of a gay relationship could very obviously have been established and explored, the movie instead shies away and sticks to firmly heterosexual ground. The stage musical it’s based on can’t be much better, but at least that starred a lead actor of an appropriate age. Largely pathetic, and often disturbing, Dear Evan Hansen is about as performative as a film can get.

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