Dear Evan Hansen Review: There Was an Attempt


Ben Platt with de-aging makeup for Dear Evan Hansen

Gavin Clingham, Staff Writer

So, apparently, there is a lot of rage on the Internet right now. I know, shocking, but a large part of it is linked to Ben Platt playing a high schooler in the film adaptation of the beloved Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen.

There has been an inordinate amount of hate flowing from critics and audiences alike on this matter. It is pretty much the basis behind the film’s 30% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. With all this hate, I didn’t really feel like seeing the film when I got back from marching band. I just felt like with all this hate, I didn’t really want to watch the original musical get tarnished. I had the privilege of seeing the original musical a few years ago, and I loved it. The songs were beautiful, the story was well told, and it just left me blown away overall. However, I have constantly questioned whether I truly liked the musical or not. As it turns out, it’s just the movie itself, not the musical.

Dear Evan Hansen starts off with the aforementioned title. Evan (Ben Platt) is a kid who struggles with social anxiety and depression and is assigned to write pep talk letters to himself every day. It doesn’t seem to help him that much because he can barely hold a conversation with his own mother (Julianne Moore) and can never seem to belong in school. On a day that he writes will be a good day, he ends up getting on the wrong side of a classmate named Connor (Colton Ryan) and signs Evan’s cast to fill the whole thing. As Connor mistakes one of Evan’s self addressed letters as a means to pick on him, he takes his letter and storms out of school. As Evan is terrified of Connor showing his letter, he is shocked when he is called to the office to hear from Connor’s Parents (Amy Adams and Danny Pino). They tell him that Connor tragically took his own life. Connor’s mom then takes out his letter,which is the only thing they found of him. With Connor’s parents enthralled by the idea that Evan is the one piece of their troubled son they have left, Evan grapples with maintaining this lie and dealing with his long lasting crush on Connor’s sister Zoe (Katilyn Dever).

Ben Platt with Julianne Moore (

To start off my thoughts, I think I have to touch on Ben Platt’s role in this movie since it is the most hated thing about this movie. The first thing that I have to say is that Ben Platt is not the worst part of this movie. He’s not exactly the shining star, (Katilyn Dever really stood out more) but he’s kind of taking the entire blame for the failure of this movie. That’s not to say he had many flaws in his performance. Really the struggle was transitioning his musical acting over to his actual acting. I didn’t realize this until after, but almost everything he does in this movie is normal if it’s done on stage. On stage, the performers have to project themselves to reach you because you’re so far. That might elicit weird hand motions, expressing their  face to project their voice, or moving their own body to force the music out. This is all pretty normal in a Broadway production, but it looks strange in a movie. Ben Platt also seems to only express his emotions in his speaking voice but not his face (once again, normal on stage). Speaking of his face, what was with the de-aging on his face? I understand that the makeup department was trying to make him look younger, but it just looked so weird. I felt more comfortable seeing Joe Pesci call Robert De Niro “kid” in The Irishman but I felt uncomfortable seeing a closeup of Ben Platt’s face. It’s makeup that’s so obvious and thicker than a bowl of oatmeal that it pulled me out of a lot of the scenes. 

Now to talk about the one who got away from the downfall of the movie. Hello, Steven Levenson. You didn’t think you could get away right. Somehow the biggest and loudest failure of this movie has not been called out that much: the writing. Reviews have been calling the story hard to follow but I didn’t know where this was coming from. Then I realized that the musical had a plot that had to be followed delicately or it would fall apart instantly. In the musical, we clearly see that Evan is cornered into being identified as Connor’s friend but in the movie, it seems like he can easily move out of the corner. The film never even mentions the fact that he has social anxiety. Every other issue he has is blatantly mentioned besides the one issue that unfortunately comes in the way of everything he tries to do. On top of that, the writing makes it seem like Evan is doing a good thing here. The musical has so many proper moments calling Evan out on the error of his ways and even gives Connor a meaningful and impactful role in guiding Evan through everything he’s done. In the script, that’s not only gone, but Levenson removed the song “Good for You” from the movie, which was such a stupid decision. It’s a powerful song that calls Evan out for not just abandoning his own mother, but also for using this family to some advantage in some way. I have no problem with the original story but I hate that it was rewritten so that Evan doesn’t ever really get called out for his actions. I understand that trying to accommodate for the fact that Julianne Moore has never sang before and she took on the role of someone who has to sing powerfully, but they didn’t have to minimize the character who is built to call out Evan and keep everyone invested in the story. The writing is just so all over the place and conflicting, which is so weird because that wasn’t how the musical book was written. 

Ben Platt and Amandla Stenberg (

I will say that most of the music in the film holds up. If the writing didn’t drag everything down, the music would carry this to be a satisfying movie. Other than the ludicrous decision to remove “Good for You” and “Anybody Have a Map”, the music is solidly done. While Ben Platt is given awkward direction while singing, he is able to replicate how he performed his music from back in 2016. “Sincerely Me” could’ve been better (because it’s easily the best song in the show) but it takes a monster and Tom Hooper (Cats director) to ruin a sequence like that, so it mostly worked for me. I felt that “Waving Through a Window” didn’t live up to the powerful potential that it had and the directors didn’t even make use of the fact that it is the opening to the entire movie. Although that is a mistake in my personal opinion, I believe that they should let it retain its emotional impact if they were going to do that. The movie just has him go to a pep rally as he’s singing it. Come on, where’s the people literally passing by him, the initial and better executed interaction with Zoe, and where in the world is the iconic circle around Evan as he comes to the peak of the song? Speaking of messing up the peak of a song, the climax of the entire show is screwed up. The part of “You Will Be Found” of the entire ensemble cast singing in unison, is portrayed by having a bunch of social media videos morphing into Connor’s face. I felt the frustration flood my head when they just turned the peak of the show into an overused troupe. Despite this, I will say that I’m not upset that they removed “Break in a Glove” (which, let’s face it, is the worst song in the show). Also, “Requiem” was one of my least favorite songs in the show but it is easily my favorite song in this movie. It had genuine emotion and power that was missing from a lot of the music. And I know I’ve talked a lot about Katilyn Dever in this article, but she was genuinely the best part about this movie. Each scene she was in actually felt like evidence to why this movie had to be made. Her story arc was actually investing and even though there were some character decisions executed better in the original show, Katilyn Dever made it convincing. 

So that was my long and drawn out summary of my thoughts on Dear Evan Hansen. I definitely don’t hate it like all the other movies I so very much despise and I think that its critics score is a little too harsh. I do think that there are several problems with it that make it revolting to an outside audience and unusual to fans of the original musical. I don’t understand why the original musical’s writer made changes to things that shouldn’t have been changed and completely ignored things that maybe should have been fixed. It could’ve been handled better with a different director and a more guided writer. If the film was given much more care and maybe patience, it could have come out differently and possibly well done.