Major spoilers ahead for Dear Evan Hansen, both the stage and movie versions.
After countless movies were pushed back last year, 2021 has been an exciting time for moviegoers who are thrilled to be returning to theaters. It’s also a year with tons of movie musicals, as we’ve already seen In the Heights, The Prom, and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie arrive. Director Stephen Chbosky’s Dear Evan Hansen is the latest of these movies, with Ben Platt back in his Tony Award winning role alongside some A-listers. But what happens in the movie, and how does it differ from the stage production?
The narrative of Dear Evan Hansen is an emotional one. Ben Platt’s title character goes to his first day of school only to have a scuffle with classmate Connor Murphy (Colton Ryan) after writing a therapist-assigned letter to himself. When Connor commits suicide later that day, his grieving parents (Amy Adams and Danny Pino) mistake it for a suicide note written to his “best friend” Evan. An innocent white lie snowballs, and soon he ingratiates himself with the family, as well as Connor’s sister/ his crush Zoe (Kaitlyn Devers). The lies start piling up, especially when Evan has to explain his absence to his single mother Heidi (Julianne Moore).
Watching the big lie of Dear Evan Hansen spiral out of control is a tense moviegoing experience, and eventually the situation explodes. The truth comes out, resulting in a heartbroken Murphy family. Evan must then atone for his missteps, in a moment that will help to alleviate the tension, while also allowing for an emotional catharsis with the final three songs. So how exactly does the story end?
What Happens At The End Of Dear Evan Hansen?
The drama of Dear Evan Hansen explodes for a few different reasons. Throughout the movie Evan’s friend Alana (Amandla Stenberg) from the Connor Project is trying to fundraise and memorialize the late character with an orchard in his name. When Evan shared Connor’s “suicide note” in order to quell her suspicions about the truth, things go haywire. She shares the note to drum up more donations, but the Murphy Family becomes the target of online harassment.
With Evan Hansen now dating Zoe and the Murphys even offering to pay for his college education, he understandably rushes over. The guilt finally takes him over, and Ben Platt sings his big 11 o’clock number “Words Fail.” In the song Evan admits to everything: he was never friends with Connor, and he’s been lying to Zoe and her family for months. It’s a truly devastating scene, and he’s promptly asked to leave their house.
Evan eventually returns home, and reunites with his mother Heidi. Julianne Moore’s matriarch tells him she loves her son no matter what with the heartbreaking song “So Big/So Small.” Ben Platt’s character admits to his mother that his fall out of the tree was actually a suciide attempt. And to make sure the Murphys are left alone, he posts a public confession and apology online, before going back to his regular, isolated life. Evan once again sits alone at lunch, and finishes up his high school career quietly.
From there the story of Dear Evan Hansen jumps ahead in time, and with Ben Platt and Kaitlyn Devers sharing a scene in the completed Connor Murphy Orchard. He once again apologizes for his lies, and Zoe gives him some peace by revealing that the orchard has become a special place for the family to remember her brother. They part ways for the last time, while Evan writes himself a new letter vowing to be himself moving forward.
How Does Dear Evan Hansen End On Broadway?
The main story beats of Dear Evan Hansen play out around the same way on stage. Alana’s suspicion of Evan eventually reaches a boiling point, and he shares the letter that started the entire show’s plot. She once again uses it to help fundraise, which backfires as people online blame the Murphys for being parents who are more worried about money than their son’s mental health.
Both “Words Fail” and “So Big/So Small” come and go, as Evan tells the truth to both the Murphys and his mother Heidi. But while the Dear Evan Hansen movie gives us plenty of time with Ben Platt’s character after the truth comes out, the stage musical ends a bit more abruptly. While there’s sure to be some purists who prefer the original, the movie arguably gives us more closure.
On stage, Dear Evan Hansen goes straight from “So Big/So Small” to the flash forward coda shared between the title character and Zoe. While we get to see the former couple make amends, the audience doesn’t physically get to see him atoning for his sins. Instead we simply hear about it during this brief chat and put the pieces together.
What’s Dear Evan Hansen’s New Ending Song?
Another big way the ending of Dear Evan Hansen’s movie differs from the stage musical is because there’s a brand new song added. After Ben Platt’s character reveals the truth about his big lie, Evan goes searching for real information about Connor. He reads his favorite books and listens to the late student’s favorite music. Evan eventually finds a video of Connor from when he was in rehab, with actor Colton Ryan debuting a new song by Pasek & Paul in the archive footage.
This new track is titled “A Little Closer” and helps to show who Connor was as a person in life, especially while being honest and in recovery. It’s a beautiful new number, which helps to flesh out a character that we don’t see very much of in the Dear Evan Hansen movie. The way Evan finds the video and forwards it on to the Murphys offers a nice sense of closure, as he finally provides them with a real memory of their son. And since Connor’s stage song “Disappear” was cut from the film adaptation, it gives the character some much-needed screen time.
Dear Evan Hansen is in theaters now, so bring your tissues. Be sure to check out the 2021 movie release dates to plan your next movie experience.
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Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.