How Did the Story of Dear Evan Hansen Go From a Tony Award-Winning Broadway Musical to a Heavily Criticized Film?

By Jasmine Flanders

The story follows Evan Hansen, a 17-year old high schooler, whose therapist tasks him with writing letters to himself. Connor Murphy, another student, steals a letter from Evan. When the letter is found on Connor, after he takes his own life, it is assumed by his family to be a note left for Evan. Evan allows Connor’s family to believe this, and he is then caught in a web of his own lies.

The film, released in late September 2021, immediately received backlash with a score of 30% on Rotten Tomatoes. Evan is played by Ben Platt, a member of the original Broadway cast. As he is a decade older than the character he played, Platt wore makeup to appear younger on screen; however, many have stated that this made him appear older. Many believe that Platt was shown favoritism during casting, as his father Marc Platt acted as co-producer. Significant criticism has been directed towards Platt, the most common comment being that the celebrated stage actor performs better on stage than before the cameras. 

Additionally controversial, the musical movie left out crucial points in Evan’s story, including narratives condemning the protagonist’s dishonest actions when lying about the true origin of the letter. This includes the number “Good For You,” sung by Evan’s mother, Heidi. Rachel Bay Jones, the Broadway actor for this role, won a Tony for her stunning performance. The song discusses Heidi’s point of view of the situation and shows the harm that Evan has caused to those around him in lying about Connor’s friendship with Evan. The removal of this song and others in the movie portray Evan as a two-dimensional, purely positive character who will not acknowledge the harm caused by his dishonesty.

The movie adaptation has received criticism on multiple aspects, yet the casting and movie direction affecting commentary on Evan’s actions remain the two largest points of critique. Ultimately, the Broadway hit seems to have been received better on stage rather than on film.