"Hamilton" Movie Review
After a musical about a “bastard, orphan, son of a whore” becomes the biggest thing Broadway has seen in ages, what comes next? The once-in-a-lifetime show had people spending in the neighborhood of $1000 for a single ticket, and though many folks were lucky enough to be in the room where it happened, there were millions more who couldn’t cough up the cash and/or make it to New York to experience it first hand.
For those who were feeling helpless, here comes Disney to the rescue, reportedly paying (wait for it) $75 million for the streaming rights. Filmed over the course of three nights just a few weeks before the original cast moved on, it’s not only a special treat for all of us who’d been yearning to get in on the phenomenon but also stands as one of the more memorable, creative, and utterly fantastic musicals ever made. Ever.
Based on the life of Alexander Hamilton (obviously), the movie version of Hamilton comes to the screen exactly as the lucky folks saw it on Broadway (save for a couple of f-words, which have been creatively censored). From King George III’s pre-show announcement (“Thank you, and enjoy my show.”) all the way through the plaintive last bars of “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”, there’s not a moment that falters. Indeed, it showcases writer/composer/star Lin-Manuel Miranda’s utter genius (with the MacArthur Grant to prove it), as he has created a musical that deftly mixes hip-hop and harpsichord. When Angelica Hamilton (Renée Elise Goldsberry’s) belts out “Satisfied”, it sounds like something that could be a mainstay on pop radio, while songs like “Ten Duel Commandments” and “Guns and Ships” sound fresh off SiriusXM’s FLY channel. There’s even a fair amount of traditional Broadway fare blended in, too, and almost all of it will burn into your brain instantly.
Beyond that level of creativity, though, Miranda has also given the world something truly special with contemporary resonance—a bastion of diversity and tolerance and patriotism. It’s no coincidence that the line “Immigrants! We get the job done!” in the song “Yorktown” receives marked applause. The cast, which includes actors of Puerto Rican, Nigerian, Colombian, and Chinese descent (among many, many others), brings a fresh face what could have been a whitewash and makes the show instantly relatable to people of every creed and background.
Director Thomas Kail (who won one of the musical’s 11 Tony Awards in 2016) worked closely with award-winning cinematographer Declan Quinn to bring the movie into being, setting up nine cameras around the Rodgers theater to provide the film audience with a better-than-front-row seat. And the original show’s costumes (by Paul Tazewell) and choreography (by Andy Blankenbuehler) don’t lose anything in the transition. There’s even a minute-long intermission, so you can take a break, if needed. How can you say no to this?
Those of us who, for the past four years, have wished we could join in as someone hummed “My Shot” while strolling by us in the produce aisle, or yearned for the day we could do more than nod politely as a colleague gushed about Phillippa Soo’s wonderful performance as Eliza, get to (at long last) find out the answer to our own question: "What’d I Miss?”
Now we know.