Dear Evan Hansen: the movie vs the musical

Dear Evan Hansens poster.

Dear Evan Hansen’s poster.

Dear Eastern Vikings,

Today is going to be a good day, and here’s why. Because today, you can see the Tony award-winning musical, Dear Evan Hansen in your local movie theater!

 In November of 2016, Dear Evan Hansen debuted at the Music Box Theater in New York City. With Ben Platt originating the lead role of Evan, the Broadway musical was an immediate success. Though an instant hit on stage, the musical’s transition to film received a lot of backlash. But why? 

Evan Hansen, played by Ben Platt in the musical AND the movie, is a teenager who struggles with severe social anxiety. As a therapy exercise, Evan is instructed to write a letter to himself explaining why he will have a “good day.” Connor Murphy, a classmate, struggling with his own mental illness, steals one of Evan’s letters from a school printer and takes his life with the letter in his pocket. 

Evan’s note is assumed to be Connor’s suicide letter. Eager to fit in with society and form connections, Evan constructs a twisted lie about his “friendship” with Connor. 

As Evan begins to feel noticed, the guilt from his intense lies creep up inside of him until he finally tells the truth.

The sick moral of the story is that one boy’s suicide gives another boy a reason to live. 

The twenty-eight-year-old, Ben Platt has received negativity from the media for playing a seventeen-year-old. While he is near double the age of his character, casting him as Evan did not bother me. Platt looked as much like a high schooler as Daniel Ezra from All American. Plenty of current TV shows and movies cast much older actors to play much younger roles as they bring maturity and knowledge to the set. 

Though Platt’s age did not sway me, his film performance disappointed me. From seeing the Broadway musical in person with Platt as the lead, I can testify that his stage-to-film performance did not change one bit. He did not adapt his anxious trembling and in-character body movement— which shine on stage — to fit the small lens of the camera. Nevertheless, the film would not feel the same if Platt had not been cast as Evan. 

Besides negativity towards Platt, the movie’s director, Stephen Chbosky, receives hate for his creative, or lack thereof, choices. Chbosky did not use the movie aspect to his advantage. In multiple songs, the actors simply sat stationary and sang. While this is expected in live theater, film allows directors to take risks and step out of the box. 

Though the movie lacked excitement and risks, the ending was greatly improved from the musical’s conclusion. Finally, we see Evan admit to and apologize for his mistakes.

Unlike the musical, in the movie, Evan posts a video confessing his lies. Evan returns to his original state of invisibility upon going to school, but we learn he prefers it this way.

 In the musical, the plot jumps to a year in the future, but the world still does not know about Evan’s faults. 

 The new conclusion of the movie settles some of the guilt felt by Evan. He took responsibility for his disgraceful actions and attempted to better himself. 

At the very end of the movie, Zoe says, “I wish we could’ve met today”- a line originally said by Evan. By switching the narration, the movie almost forces the audience to forgive Evan. The movie shows Zoe’s acceptance which downplays Evan’s actions. 

Throughout the plot, the audience sees his emotional and mental struggle. We know Evan lied to save himself from suicide. Zoe acknowledging this feels strangely satisfying and subsides some uneasy feelings.

Overall, this movie does not deserve nearly half of the hate it is receiving. The movie is a great opportunity to experience this unique story without having to pay hundreds of dollars for a Broadway ticket. Although I understand the negative reviews, this movie teaches many important lessons about self-acceptance, popularity, temptation, and mental health. Dear Evan Hansen is a must-see movie!