A Theatre Fan’s Opinion on Dear Evan Hansen (the movie)

Elena Rupp, Staff Writer

Actor Ben Platt is 28 years old. In his latest film, Dear Evan Hansen, which came to theaters on September 24, he played the lead role of Evan Hansen, who is a high school student. The film has received a lot of backlash from viewers. Mostly for casting Platt as a high school student but viewers had other complaints too. 

Platt originated the role of Evan Hansen on Broadway and he played Evan in the film. He partly played Evan in the film because of his origination of the role, but also because he is a very talented Tony Award winner. Due to Platt being 28 and not looking exactly like the age of a high schooler, he had to wear makeup and his skin was retouched. Many viewers thought he looked extremely weird and out of place due to the retouching. Viewers felt like they couldn’t enjoy the film because the retouching was so distracting. Some viewers even made the argument that there are many other people who have played Evan on Broadway, who are younger and would be more fitting for a film adaptation. 

Although I understand where these viewers are coming from, because there are many people that are very talented and could possibly play Evan in the film, I do not agree that Platt looked out of place and the age never bothered me.

I went with a couple of people to see the film in theaters a few days after it was released. I am an avid Dear Evan Hansen fan so I was very excited to see it. I have seen it on Broadway and I have seen the touring company perform as well. When I was watching I didn’t notice anything weird about Platt playing Evan. One of my friends who saw the film with me, who had no preexisting knowledge about Dear Evan Hansen, said she didn’t notice the high school characters looking older than they should. She also pointed out that in most TV shows and movies, high school characters are played by older actors, so it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for an actor to look a bit older, I totally agree. You see the age differences in lots of entertainment. For example on the hit TV show Outer Banks actor Chase Stokes plays a 17 year old while he is actually 29 years old. 

When it comes to being able to focus on the movie itself and not Platt’s age, I didn’t have a problem. Musicals that are adapted into movies are hit or miss sometimes, but I feel like it was hit just right! Especially when the music is so good and the composers/lyricists are Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (composers of songs in A Christmas Story, Dogfight, La La Land, etc.). I could see more depth in more characters than when seeing it on stage. I felt like I got to see a deeper side of characters that weren’t Evan, such as Alana, Connor, and Zoe. I think that a deeper side was found with the few added songs that were beautifully integrated into the film. I felt like I could finally understand each of their characters more with the film. We see Alana’s motive on why she is so invested in the “Connor Project”. For Zoe we see more on how Connor’s death impacts her. Lastly with Connor, we got to see a new side of him when he was in rehab. I also got to see the setting of the scenes, like the school, the Murphy’s and Hansen’s houses, and the iconic Ellison State Park. It was interesting to look at the director’s interpretation of where the setting of the scenes would be because in the performances on stage, the audience had to visualize the setting themselves. 

There were actually a few songs I thought were portrayed better on the film, one of them being “Sincerely, Me”, a trio between Evan, Connor, and Jared. Since we are up close to the actors, we get to see some more comedic actions and effects that are happening that the audience wouldn’t get to appreciate in a theatre due to being so far away from the actors. 

Clearly I really liked the film adaptation of Dear Evan Hansen — even with Ben Platt being a bit older than his character. I can appreciate a fantastic actor and singer when I see one, and he definitely deserved the role of Evan, both on Broadway and in the film. Although in my opinion I would prefer to see the musical on stage because nothing is better than live theatre, I still believe that this movie deserves less backlash than what it is getting!