Film Review: Dear Evan Hansen

The Broadway show recently made its debut on the big screen, but how does it measure up to the original?


A poster for the Dear Evan Hansen movie

Tyler Solomon, Staff Writer

The new film adaptation of the Broadway hit Dear Evan Hansen has made it to theaters, first premiering on September 24th of this year. Although the show and book are loved by many, the movie did not seem to generate as much attention at the box office, with its opening weekend earning back only $7.5 million of the movie’s $28 million production budget. Critics were harsh toward the film, but according to rotten tomatoes the film received an audience score of 86%. This article contains major spoilers for the movie and Broadway show of Dear Evan Hansen, do not read on if you want to avoid them.
Dear Evan Hansen is an emotionally heavy story about the life of a socially awkward teen after one of his classmates, Connor Murphy, takes his own life. After having dinner with the Murphy family one night and lying to them about his friendship with Connor due to his extreme anxiety and feelings of guilt, he tries to maneuver through high school while pretending to be Connor’s only friend. He then skyrockets into popularity after his speech at the memorial for his former classmate goes viral on the internet, eventually launching the Connor Project – an effort to reopen an orchard his family frequently visited before his death – to remember him and show others “you are not alone,” as the lyrics of the song “You Will Be Found” puts it.
The cast performed well, with Ben Platt reprising his role as Evan Hansen. He was joined by Kaitlyn Dever as Zoe Murphy, Colton Ryan as Connor Murphy, Nik Dodani as Jared Kleinman, and Amandla Stenberg as Alana Beck. The issue most critics site when it comes to the cast is Platt as Evan Hansen, who was 28 as of the filming of the movie. However, most fans will likely be able to look past his age and still be impressed with his performance and his co-stars.
Many changes to the film were made, including cutting and adding songs and replacing dialogue. The 4 songs removed include the original opening number “Anybody Have a Map”; “Disappear,” Evan’s inner monologue to himself expressed through his imaginary perception of Connor; “To Break In a Glove,” a song from Connor’s father Larry (who is now his stepdad in the film) where he acts as a father figure to Evan teaching him to follow things through no matter how difficult it is and “do it right”; and “Good For You,” an expression of frustration with Evan’s actions from his mother, Jared, and Alana. The removal of these songs eliminates some character building for Connor and Evan’s parents, Jared, and Alana, as well as their views toward Evan and his actions and important lessons for him. This also results in a slight loss of impact in the scene where Evan argues with his mom for always being at work and “trying to fix him” with medications.
Not all the changes were in poor taste; Larry being Connor’s stepdad is a beneficial change, which could be a possible explanation as to why he may have had his downward emotional spiral and fall into depression. The new song introduced in the movie, “The Anonymous Ones” also adds some depth to Alana and shows Evan that he’s not the only one struggling. Another positive change made includes the addition of scenes at the end of the movie, where Evan decides to dedicate some time to learning more about Connor and really show that he wants to preserve his memory instead of using it to get Zoe’s attention. Some of these changes give Evan more positive character traits, and they show that he’s turning around from his past of lies and deceit. He properly learns the lesson he’s preached from the start of the story, that no one should be forgotten about or disappear.
The story’s overall message is that no one is alone in their struggles, and that it is ok to reach out for help when needed, though Evan gives the perfect example of how not to handle such issues. Evan does eventually learn to take his own advice near the end of the story, where he finally comes clean to the Murphy’s about the lies he told them, including their friendship and his supposed “suicide note”, which turns out to be a letter from Evan to himself as an assignment from his therapist. After coming clean, Evan makes efforts to become a better person and get to know Connor better, eventually going to the new Connor Murphy Memorial Orchard with Zoe.
Dear Evan Hansen is currently showing at most theaters and expected to stream on NBC’s Peacock four months after the theatrical release. If you’re looking to satisfy your hunger for musicals, Coronado Theater Department’s production of The Wizard of Oz will be showing from November 11th to the 13th. To purchase your tickets, click here.