You can’t really view Dear Evan Hansen through the lens of a bygone era’s more lax standards of age-related naturalism. Watching the film last night, I instead found myself straining to apply a more radical justification, to reason that Platt’s casting could work as a distancing device. Evan is a high-school outcast who feels alienated from his peers because of his depression and social anxiety. Could making him look radically different than them function in a Brechtian way, as a deliberate representation of how different he feels?
Nah! It is, as everyone speculated, enormously and constantly distracting to see this grown-ass man with a visibly receding hairline act like an awkward adolescent. (Not to be unkind, but Platt does not possess the ageless boyishness he’s blatantly struggling to convey.) The disconcerting Hans-Moleman-as-Bart wrongness of his presence underscores the movie’s larger failure to reconcile realism and the fantasy intrusions of musical theater. There really aren’t that many songs in this 137-minute musical, which makes each one’s arrival rather jarring. That could work, in a Dancer In The Dark kind of way: a serious, thoughtful teen drama periodically interrupted by explosions of feeling the characters can only express through song. But director Stephen Chbosky, who wrote The Perks Of Being A Wallflower and helmed its adaptation (an infinitely more resonant portrait of teenage life and longing), stages the numbers in the same banal, sitting-at-the-table way as the standard dialogue scenes.