‘Dear Evan Hansen’: is it really that bad? I didn’t think so


Photo courtesy of IMDb

Ben Platt and Kaitlyn Dever star in the movie adaptation of Broadway’s “Dear Evan Hansen.”

If you’ve been on the internet lately, you’ve probably heard it: Ben Platt, a 28-year-old, is playing 17-year-old Evan Hansen? “Riverdale” much?

I’ve heard it too, and after watching the movie I have to say — it did throw me off. But not enough for me to deter someone from seeing the film (adapted from the Tony award winning Broadway musical, “Dear Evan Hansen”). Let’s unpack it.

Evan Hansen is a highschool senior suffering from social anxiety. His therapist recommends he write letters to himself with positive affirmations — explaining why that day will be a good one. There it is: the now iconic “Dear Evan Hansen” phrase taking root.

In the library one day, Evan is writing his daily letter to himself. He prints it out, only for classmate Connor Murphy (Colton Ryan) to snatch and read it. In this letter, Evan talks about his crush Zoe (Kaitlyn Dever)  — coincidentally Connor’s sister — and how he wishes he could talk to her. Connor, who is often bullied at school for his temper and easily angered nature, assumes Evan wrote the letter and staged the whole scene to get a rise out of him.

A few days later, Connor dies by suicide with Evan’s letter in his pocket. Connor’s parents (Amy Adams, Danny Pino) assume their son addressed the letter to Evan himself, and want to learn more about Evan and Connor’s “friendship.”

Evan — whose overworked single mother (Julianne Moore) is rarely home — spends a lot of time with the Murphy’s, lying about his relationship with Connor and telling fabricated stories about their time together.

In the midst of Evan’s lies, classmate Alana (Amandla Stenberg) organizes a memorial for Connor, along with “The Connor Project” — a group dedicated to keeping his memory alive.

At Connor’s memorial, Evan speaks and goes viral for his motivating words — telling his peers they are never alone — but with this newfound popularity, grapples with the intense depth of his lies.

So, back to where we started. Yeah, Ben Platt does look too old to be playing Evan. Perhaps his Broadway replacement — the now 19-year-old Andrew Barth Feldman — should’ve snagged the role. It certainly would’ve been more believable. But, Platt originated the role of Evan on Broadway. It can be argued that nobody knows the character better than him.

Platt’s acting was convincing — it was real and raw, and effectively conveyed deep, heavy emotions and themes offscreen. At least none of the “highschoolers” strolled around with effortlessly washboard abs and drank scotch in their penthouse to “cool down.” Hate to call you out, OG “Gossip Girl.”

Mental health representation and awareness is a huge aspect of this film, and I think they handled the subject well. Not only do we see Evan struggling, but Connor and Alana, too. It’s heartbreaking and oftentimes relatable. It’s thoroughly intense, and although Evan lies to a family about knowing the son they just lost (which is not the move), I still felt for him.

Some other reviews I read mentioned Evan is a pathological liar who we shouldn’t have empathy for, and that taints the movie.

Here’s the thing: I can’t roast the plot of this movie adaptation, because it’s not a storyline original to the film — it’s taken from Broadway. I have to rate how well the transition was from the stage to the theatre and honestly, I thought it was a great one.

I have to point out — the music really made this film for me. From the now widely recognized “Waving Through A Window,” to Dever’s rendition of “Requiem,” the character’s authentic emotions were captured. “You Will Be Found” certainly had me weeping.

To put it bluntly: I liked the movie. It’s getting lots of hate out there, but it was worth our $8.00 matinee tickets.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars