The 13 most cringeworthy moments in 'Dear Evan Hansen' - from the lack of chemistry between Evan and Zoe to the odd portrayal of mental health

·11 min read
Ben Platt in striped shirt for "Dear Evan Hansen."
Ben Platt in "Dear Evan Hansen." Universal Pictures
  • "Dear Evan Hansen" has been criticized because Ben Platt is a 27-year-old playing a student.

  • It's also come under fire for an irresponsible portrayal of mental health issues.

  • The film, also starring Amandla Stenberg and Amy Adams, hit theaters on Friday.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

The entire premise of "Dear Evan Hansen" is flawed.

Ben Platt in a tree wearing a green shirt.
"Dear Evan Hansen." Universal Pictures

"Dear Evan Hansen," an adaptation of the Broadway musical that premiered in December 2016, tells the story of Evan Hansen, a teenager who's in therapy to treat his social anxiety and depression.

Evan writes a letter of encouragement to himself, which mentions his crush Zoe Murphy. Zoe's brother, Connor, steals the letter.

Connor had the letter in his pocket when he eventually dies by suicide. It leads Connor's family to believe that the two were friends — and Evan doesn't correct them. In fact, Evan uses the Murphy family's pain to his advantage to try and get closer to Zoe.

Yes, Evan is the worst and barely faces consequences.

The entire time we have to pretend Ben Platt passes as a high school student.

Ben Platt
27-year-old Ben Platt is playing a teenager in "Dear Evan Hansen." Rich Fury/Getty Images/ Universal Pictures

Much of the criticism surrounding "Dear Evan Hansen" centers around the fact that its lead actor, Platt, is a 27-year-old playing a high school student. It's completely valid to raise an eyebrow at this fact.

Television shows have been casting adults as students for decades. One of the most infamous examples of this is Gabrielle Carteris, who played 16-year-old high school student, Andrea Zuckerman, on "Beverly Hills, 90210" when she was 29 years old, according to People.

But even though Platt originated the role of Evan in the musical when he was in his early 20s, to reprise it five years later as a mature-looking 27-year-old onscreen is ridiculous.

Platt addressed the controversy earlier this month on NBC's "The Drink with Kate Snow."

"I'm trying my best to tune it out because there's nothing I can do about how old I am," Platt said. "When I'm playing a character, there's all sorts of things about myself that are not like who I am. I weigh a little less, or I dress a little differently, or my hair's a little curlier. And in this particular case, I'm someone younger than I am."

Why does Jared call Evan's therapy assignment a "sex letter?"

Nik Dodani Dear Evan Hansen
Universal Pictures

The catalyst to "Dear Evan Hansen's" questionable plot is an assignment that Evan's therapist gives him to write a letter of encouragement to himself. It's an exercise to treat his anxiety and depression.

So, it's quite disturbing that Evan's "family friend" Jared (Nik Dodani) keeps referring to the note as a "sex letter." It's bullying at the hands of Evan's closest "friend."

This supposed teasing could cause others to be ashamed of seeking help for their mental health issues, which is totally uncool.

The film features homophobic undertones.

Dear Evan Hansen
"Dear Evan Hansen." Universal Pictures

Despite the fact that many people thought the original stage production of "Dear Evan Hansen" was a queer love story — it's not.

The movie tries to make light of this theory by constantly having Jared tell Evan that Connor's (Colton Ryan) family is going to think they're a couple based on all of the detailed lies he's telling them about fake day trips they went on together.

There would have been nothing wrong with Evan and Connor being in love, but taunting Evan about it makes "Dear Evan Hansen" appear homophobic.

It's a bit jarring when Alana and Evan name drop their anxiety and depression meds in conversation after knowing each other for about two seconds.

Evan Hansen and Alana on swings in "Dear Evan Hanson."
Evan and Alana do not know each other well when they reveal their medications to each other. Universal Pictures

"Dear Evan Hansen" has many jarring moments — but this one might hit hardest of all.

The "Dear Evan Hansen" cast and crew are trying to pull their film out from under horrible reviews from critics by championing it as a film about mental health.

"There are millions of kids struggling, going through so much,"director Stephen Chbosky said, according to Yahoo. "We made it for them. Millions of kids will be reached by this."

He might be right, but millions of other kids may feel like their mental health journeys are being exploited. Evan and class president Alana (Amandla Stenberg) share the medications they're taking with each other very early on in their friendship.

Honest conversations about your mental health treatment plan with people you trust are vital, as is decreasing the stigma around talking about it all. But most people probably don't feel comfortable dropping their medication names to near-strangers on random nights at the park.

Every moment of Evan's public speech about Connor will make you want to scream.

Ben Platt as Evan Hansen
Ben Platt as Evan Hansen. Universal Pictures

Speaking of exploiting genuine teenage struggles, let's talk about Connor.

Within the film, the tragedy of his death only happens to help our "hero" gain friends and influence people. Conner's true personality is bashed by nearly everyone who should have loved him and his only chance at redemption comes in the form of Evan's bold-faced lies.

The horror of this "deeply offensive" plot (as Variety so succinctly put it) is most evident when Evan gives a public speech about Conner at a school assembly. In the first few minutes of the scene, you might feel second-hand embarrassment for Evan because of all of the gawking and laughing from the audience.

That sick feeling in your stomach won't go away for you as the tides change for Evan and he starts getting cheers for relaying fake memories about Connor. If you can't resist the urge to stop watching or scream at your screen, we don't blame you.

All kidding aside, suicide rates have been rising at an "alarming" rate among kids and teens, according to a report by UC Davis Health. Kids who have depression and drug addiction deserve a better story than Conner's.

At the very least, let's acknowledge that lying about a stranger's life will probably have more negative consequences than positive ones.

The song "If I Could Tell Her" has incestuous vibes.

Ben Platt and Kaitlyn Dever in "Dear Evan Hansen."
Ben Platt and Kaitlyn Dever in "Dear Evan Hansen." Universal Pictures.

"If I Could Tell Her" is a song that Evan sings to Connor's sister Zoe (Kaitlyn Dever) confessing his own romantic feelings for her.

The cringy part is that Evan presents the song to Zoe as if it were feelings Connor had for Zoe that he never had the strength to tell her.

Examples of some of the song's most unfortunate lyrics are:

"Well, he said
There's nothing like your smile
Sort of subtle and perfect and real
He said
You never knew how wonderful
That smile could make someone feel."

That is a very intimate way for a brother to talk about his sister's smile. But there's more:

"If I could tell her
How she's everything to me
But we're a million worlds apart
And I don't know how I would even start
If I could tell her."

And then there's the fact that Connor supposedly watched Zoe dance when she thought no one was watching:

"And he wondered how you learned to dance
Like all the rest of the world isn't there."

Stalkers do that.

Plus, the audience knows that Evan is lying and just confessing his own deep feelings for her.

How are we supposed to ignore the sick feeling that naturally builds in our stomachs throughout the whole scene?

Amy Adams seems constipated throughout the whole movie.

Amy Adams in "Dear Evan Hansen"
Amy Adams in "Dear Evan Hansen." Universal Pictures

Amy Adams has been in some lovely movies like "Enchanted" and "Julie & Julia." She's also been in some critically-acclaimed projects like "Sharp Objects" and "American Hustle."

So the fact that Adams took the role of Connor's mother Cynthia Murphy is baffling, but we can't let her off the hook too easily.

Her take on a grieving mother is both constipated and bland — and we don't say that lightly. The script does her no favors and sadly, Cynthia just seems like she's holding something in all the time.

She's too perfect, too naive, too rich, and privileged, and robotic. If you are waiting for her to explode emotion throughout the film, you aren't alone, but the moment never really comes.

Zoe and Evan's chemistry is about as believable as the Tooth Fairy.

Kaitlyn Dever and Ben Platt.
"Dear Evan Hansen." Universal Pictures

We have no criticism of Dever's performance as Zoe, but that doesn't mean that she and Platt have any chemistry at all.

We are meant to believe that the eventual couple forms a deep bond when Evan is extremely entangled in his lie and often going to the Murphy house. But if "Dear Evan Hansen" was actually trying hard to lay the foundation for a romance between Zoe and Evan, it failed.

Watching their most intimate moments together is almost physically painful. Their vibes naturally repel each other, but for Hollywood's sake, they play "in love" and lose the game.

This makes the film's conclusion, where they muse about what would happen between them if they'd only met at different times in their lives, fall even flatter than it would have if their story was one of platonic friendship and betrayal.

Evan and Heidi's fight outside the Murphy house proves the protagonist is shallow and self-centered.

Ben Platt and Julianne Moore
Ben Platt and Julianne Moore in "Dear Evan Hansen." Universal Pictures

Julianne Moore gives the best performance as Evan's mother Heidi Hansen in "Dear Evan Hansen" (with Dever a close second behind her).

So, the scene between Evan and Heidi outside of the Murphy house right after Heidi has declined the Murphy's offer to pay Evan's college tuition (a very awkward moment that deserves an honorable mention) is mostly awkward because of Evan's audacity.

He's never a hero worth rooting for, but when he's yelling at his mother for not loving him as much as the Murphy's do, he's plain villainous. Plus, how can you measure a mother's love by how much she can contribute to your college tuition, Evan? How shallow and self-centered.

In the scene, Evan mentions that his mother makes him feel bad about his social anxiety issues, but Heidi just comes across as an overworked, stressed-out parent with an ungrateful brat for a son.

Words fail us when trying to describe the scene in which Evan confesses his lies to the Murphy's.

Ben Platt in "Dear Evan Hansen"
Ben Platt in "Dear Evan Hansen." Universal Pictures

We reach the climax of "Dear Evan Hansen" when Evan confesses that he was never friends with Conner to the Murphys and basically details how he exploited their son's suicide for attention.

Platt's overwrought performance of "Words Fail" and the absolute inadequacy of the lyrics of the song make the scene unbearable.

We know words fail to describe how awful your behavior is, Evan. Words fail us too, but saying the phrase over and over again doesn't get you off the hook.

(Speaking of Platt's musical performances, it feels like the right time to say that in the finale song, he over-acts so much that we swear we heard him sniffling snot while singing.)

We need to talk about Evan's cast.

Evan Hansen's cast with the name Connor on it.
One signature started a whole mess. Universal Pictures

It's annoying that the cast exists at all because plaster can be blamed for this whole convoluted story.

But it's odd that "Dear Evan Hansen" doesn't even try to make the experience of having a cast seem authentic. It's just a prop.

Evan is never itchy. Plus if you look closely at the image above, you'll see that there is no sock or cotton under Platt's arm, which is always placed underneath real casts for extra protection.

Even if the actual process of getting a cast removed is as seamless and clean as it is in the movie, Evan's arm is magically perfectly fine afterward. In reality, it would be stiff immediately after removal.

Every time we have to hear or see the phrase "best and most dearest friend."

Ben Platt
Ben Platt in "Dear Evan Hansen." Universal Pictures

I love proper grammar, so every time we have to hear someone repeat the closing salutation in Evan's letter to himself, it's like listening to nails on a chalkboard.

Don't you pay attention in English class, Evan?

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