“Dear Evan Hansen”: the musical turned film received heavy criticism for mental health depiction and film choices

The film adaptation of Dear Evan Hansen has received heavy criticism for the casting of Ben Platt and its treatment of the topic of mental health.

The film adaptation of “Dear Evan Hansen” has received heavy criticism for the casting of Ben Platt and its treatment of the topic of mental health.

Hannah Scott

“Dear Evan Hansen” was originally a musical that premiered on Broadway in 2016. It opened to critical acclaim and many reviewers loved the way that it handled the issues of relationships and mental health. It also was given positive reviews for being a more seemingly realistic look into the high school experience and how individuals interact at that time in their lives.

The musical opened with Ben Platt, then 23, starring as the lead role of Evan Hansen, an awkward social outcast who struggles with social anxiety. Since then, two other individuals have gone on to play the role including Ben Levi Ross and Sam Tutty. 

When it was announced that the musical would be adapted into a movie in 2021 and that Ben Platt would star once again as the lead role, the reception was surprisingly mixed and more criticism than was expected was given to the trailer of the film. One of the largest issues many saw with the film was that Ben Platt, now 27, seemed too old to be playing the role of 17-year-old Evan Hansen.

The criticism also swirled due to the fact that Platt’s father, Marc Platt would be co-producing the movie and it seemed as though the job was given to Ben Platt somewhat because of this factor. When responding to the criticism for the casting of himself in the role Platt released a statement. 

“The reaction is largely from people that don’t understand the context of the piece,” said Platt. “The fact that I created the role and workshopped it for three years, and did all of the out-of-town performances, and originated it on Broadway and received the accolades that I did… and also not really understanding that were I not to do the movie, it probably wouldn’t get made.”

The response to Platt’s statement was generally negative and had many people feeling as though he was trying to detract from the actual criticism of the film. However, many fans were still open-minded about seeing the film and were hoping for the end product to be better than they were expecting.

The film released on Sept. 24th, 2021 and the reviews were quite negative. Many audience members agreed that Platt simply looked too old to be playing a high school student and that the makeup and mannerisms he used to help him look more like a 17-year-old aged him instead. 

The directing of the film was also called into question, as there were many up-close shots of Platt and the use of space in many of the scenes seemed muddled at best. Many reviewers also noted that every time Platt would try and transition into a song he would always start by mumbling his words and then suddenly go full on. It was also noted that he seemingly was using acting techniques that would probably work for the stage where the audience was seated quite far away, but for a film camera, seemed too dramatic.

One of the largest critiques of the film also came from the story. While the original Broadway musical was lauded for its performances and plot back when it was released, it seems that now the story of the show is coming into question for just how good of a representation it is of high school individuals and their struggle with mental health. 

The story revolves around Evan Hansen who writes himself letters beginning with “Dear Evan Hansen” in order to help him feel more comfortable in his surroundings and bring down his social anxiety. However, when one of his classmates Connor commits suicide, one of Evan’s letters are found and it is thought that Connor wrote the letter to Evan reaching out for help. Because of this Evan becomes close with Connor’s family and their daughter Zoe who he has a crush on.

Though the story was given praise in 2016, many individuals questioned the treatment of Connor in the film and how nobody really learns lessons about their actions except for Evan at the very end of the film.

“Dear Evan Hansen” seems to be an enigma when it comes to entertainment. The musical received acclaim and accolades but the current film that was released has been the subject of heavy scrutiny.

Although the original source material was received positively, perhaps it would have been better to leave this one as it was, or listen to audience criticism before releasing it out into the world.