(director: Thomas Kail; screenwriters: book by Lin-Manuel Miranda/ inspired by the book “Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow; cinematographer: Declan Quinn; editor: Jonah Moran; music: Lin-Manuel Miranda; cast: Lin-Manuel Miranda (Alexander Hamilton), Daveed Diggs (Marquis de Lafayette / Thomas Jefferson), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Angelica Schuyler), Phillipa Soo (Eliza), Leslie Odom Jr. (Aaron Burr), Christopher Jackson (George Washington), Jasmine Cephas Jones (Maria Reynolds), Jonathan Groff (King George), Okieriete Onaodowan (Hercules Mulligan / James Madison), Anthony Ramos (John Laurens / Philip Hamilton), Carleigh Bettiol (Ensemble), Ariana DeBose (Ensemble), Hope Easterbrook (Ensemble), Sydney James Harcourt (Philip Schuyler / James Reynolds / Doctor / Ensemble), Sasha Hutchings (Ensemble), Thayne Jasperson, Elizabeth Judd, Jon Rua, Austin Smith, Seth Stewart, Ephraim Sykes; Runtime: 160; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Thomas Kail, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jeffrey Selle; Disney +; 2020)
“The play was a must see event, while the film is not.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Disney forked over $75 million to film the generational play. This is the filmed version of the original groundbreaking Tony-winning Broadway production of “Hamilton”, that in 2015 packed at first the Public Theater in NYC and when it moved to the Broadway theater it also drew full-houses. The play as well as the movie is directed by Thomas Kail (“Grease: Live!”), who is not a movie man but is greatly aided here by the deft camerawork of cinematographer Declan Quinn, who had 9 cameras in different positions and intermixed them with Steadicams and cranes. He made sure everyone watching the film in the movie theater would have a good seat (not just those in the stage theater who shelled out big money for the best seats). The movie was shot over three days in June 2016 at the Richard Rodgers Theater in New York, its home.
It’s based on the book by the film’s star, Lin-Manuel Miranda. He was inspired by Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography of America. The film version offers for viewers such as me who never saw the Broadway show a chance to see it safely at home, as it comes out during the worldwide pandemic and doesn’t have a theater release. We can see for ourselves then what all the fuss was about when this revolutionary stage production took Broadway by storm with its innovative take on the colonial era’s powdered-wig historical figures and came up with the novelty of replacing the white figures with a multi-racial cast (mostly black, Latino and Asian) and with hip-hop and R&B scored music instead of the traditional classical music powered by flutes and oboes. The music was so appreciated, the cast album of the play became the best-seller ever of such an endeavor. Meanwhile the dance numbers were splendidly choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical is about the nation’s first secretary of the Treasury, the author of the Federalist Papers, founder of the NY Post and an architect of the American banking system, the controversial American Dream aspiring Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda). He worked harder than others and used his smarts to rise to fame from poverty on a Caribbean island and symbolized what the immigrant can achieve in the New World. The play tells us about the man and his doomed fate and about his duplicitous nemesis, the one who will kill him in a duel, the hateful Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr.), the ambitious Princeton grad (like Hamilton) who would become vice president. Burr, in the enticing opening number, sings “Wait For It,” as he muses about how his rival Hamilton is “a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman,” and can’t understand why he has become so revered “to be a hero and a scholar.”
The other leads include the Tony-winner Daveed Diggs, who delights as the glib scene-stealer in his dual role as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson. Then there’s Eliza (Phillipa Soo) as Hamilton’s wronged wife, who emotionally sings the sad ballad “Burn;” and the beguiling sister of Eliza, the Tony-winner Renée Elise Goldsberry, as Angelica Schuyler, who flirts with Hamilton and so beautifully sings “Satisfied.”
The supporting cast is also strong, they include the white Jonathan Groff as the flashy “da-da-da-da-DA” refrain singing King George III, Anthony Ramos as John Laurens and Alexander’s son Philip (who died ahead of dad), Christopher Jackson as the rich-voiced baritone and imposing paternal figure of George Washington, Okieriete Onaodowan as both Hercules Mulligan and James Madison (a supporter of Hamilton’s Federalism), and Jasmine Cephas Jones as Peggy Schuyler (the Schuyler’s third sister).
The play was a must see event, while the film is not. Instead it’s a more than a decent film experience, one that could get you lovin’ the music and should get you thinking seriously about its theme song “Immigrants (We get the job done),” because that’s where the play is at and that’s where the mood of the country is at, especially, after the bigoted Trump demonized the undocumented immigrants and forgot his history (if the dolt ever knew it) about who made this country great.
REVIEWED ON 7/7/2020 GRADE: B+