Hamilton (2021)
July 3, 2020 8:18 AM - Subscribe

The real life of one of America's foremost founding fathers and first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. Streaming on Disney+.

So what happens now, when Hamilton once again enters the cultural conversation, with access to it democratized by a streaming service one can purchase for less than $10? And this time, we’re in a moment in which Black people are demanding an equitable and just share of power, and their right to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. What happens when the country at large, and not just a select audience of well-monied theatergoers, get swept into the passion, yearning and romance that Miranda’s songwriting makes so deliciously infectious? (Soraya McDonald for the Undefeated)
posted by ChuraChura (36 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I'm watching it with my husband right now! We took a break after "One Last Time" for lunch and I'm dreading going back and just watching Hamilton's life fall apart.

I saw this cast perform this show at this theater in January 2016 under memorable circumstances, a very tumultuous but very hopeful time for my family, and my life has changed so much since. It's an indescribable trip to return to it now, in these dark times.
posted by potrzebie at 1:15 PM on July 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

This was great and I was never not going to love it, but I was impressed how well it worked.

I appreciate that Tommy Kail's direction is really geared toward highlighting the numerous subtle details Kail himself put in the stage show. There's a lot that happens with a look or a gesture, and the film does a good job of drawing your eye toward those bits without being overly obvious about it. There's so much in the show that nobody could afford to see it enough times to notice, and the camera tries to point that out to you here. The sound mix brings out some fun details too. That effect on "I'm the damn fool that shot him” tickles your ears if you’re wearing earphones, and there's a really subtle bit of phonograph static at the top of "Yorktown" that I've never noticed before (sounds like it's not on the cast album) that really nicely signals "hey we're jumping back to re-enact history right now" as the cast announces the setting and date.

The point where I quibble a bit is the extent to which close-ups are used. King George's spittle was a little much, and more broadly, the acting in the show is warm and expressive, but it's stage acting, and some of the gestures that are outsized enough to look meaningful from the balcony start to look comical up close. LMM's warmth and empathy sometimes come across as as just a little too much. Eliza's anguished scream at the end of "Stay Alive (Reprise)" (the scream is omitted from the cast album so many are hearing it for the first time) is still all the feels, but the close-up visual that goes with it just barely crosses the line into soap opera territory for me. It's perfect for a theater, but here it's just too close.

When it ended, my thought process went something like "time for the exit music! wait, where's the exit music? how could they do this without including the exit music? THERE'S THE EXIT MUSIC!" It's secretly one of the best songs in the show and well worth sitting through the credits for.

Plus, if you stay to the end of the credits, you get to see the totally endearing Special Thanks credit for "A Train, MTA." There's also a thanks for "Schorfling, Austria" that I'm really curious about.

This LA Times interview with Leslie Odom Jr. is worth a read, especially as he talks about what he made at the Public Theater and his push for profit-sharing for the Broadway company:
This is about the economic ways that Black people and people of color and women are remunerated for our contributions. What is our ongoing relationship to the companies and institutions we help build with our time and our talents? Everybody should be at that table in the same way that everybody was at that table to create it. Everybody needs to be a part of the feeding when the food’s being doled out.

We need to stop being polite and talk about the money part of it too. You want to be an ally? You make sure that Black people and people of color and women are getting paid, that they’ll be able to take money home to their families. It’s not about revenge, it’s about equality.
As for how Hamilton has held up over the past few years, Lauren Michele Jackson nailed it:
Those who are searching for political coherence in “Hamilton,” whether for the first or the umpteenth time, will not find it any more easily here than in the play’s natural habitat. To be invigorated by a righteous, multicultural patriotism or frustrated by it? It is true that a cast of color all done up in the master’s garb, articulating a humanism that never imagined them as part of it, won’t save the nation, and perhaps commits the error of assuming that an irredeemable nation can be saved. But this was no less true in the world that birthed “Hamilton,” when all the statues were still intact, than it is now that a few of them are gone or buried. If the ethos of “Hamilton” is less palatable now, in the burst-bubble aftermath of the Obama era, the souring cannot be attributed to “Hamilton,” nor to the nation, only to individual changes of faith.
posted by zachlipton at 3:01 PM on July 3, 2020 [15 favorites]

My family had tickets to see the Broadway production at the end of May, so getting this early helped ease our pain some. Watching it was a great chance to bond with our soon-to-be-18-year-old. We all know the album by heart, but seeing the choreography and the acting and the stagecraft really added so much.

I felt like the romance between Eliza and Alexander was much more real and touching when you see it play out rather than just experience the songs. There were so many great little touches, like Madison wiping his eyes after "It's Quiet Uptown" (as was I). I thought the flecks of spittle from King George were terrific and terrifying. The turntable stage is as old as dirt now, but they used it super effectively.

Man, Daveed Diggs is a force of nature! He stole every scene he was in. Lin Manuel really shone in the last half of the second act, where he really emoted more than on the cast album. And Christopher Jackson was such an authoritative presence. But the biggest revelation for me was Leslie Odom Jr. His voice sounded less polished than on the album, but he sung so expressively. And he revealed his character so much through his performance. On the CD he disappears into narration, but when you see him always watching and judging and calculating, it really brings their rivalry to the fore over and above what the album can do.

I associate the show so much with my hopes for the 2016 election that it took me a long time to be able to listen to it again. It feels different to try to reclaim the story of America for immigrants and Black folks now than it did in Obama's America. But thanks for the Lauren Michael Jackson quote, zachlipton. It was always a fun-house mirror Lin Manuel was holding up to the American story. The truth is much crueler, and yet without aspirations we can't work toward a better future.

Did the sound mixing seem off toward the end to anyone else? "Burn" sounded extra loud to me and LM's voice barely carried at the end of "The Election of 1800." But maybe it's my stereo cord, which has been acting up, especially when the dog sits on it.
posted by rikschell at 5:14 PM on July 3, 2020 [10 favorites]

I loved being able to see this up close instead of from the back of a theater balcony. So many things I hadn’t noticed, like Okieriete Onaodowan as Madison being just as funny as his Hercules Mulligan, just subtler. (I love the way Hamilton handled all the Virginians.)

Christopher Jackson as Washington is still my favorite. And now I really got to admire his black velvet Presidential getup.
posted by sallybrown at 7:58 PM on July 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

I associate the show so much with my hopes for the 2016 election that it took me a long time to be able to listen to it again.

One of the things that the 2016 election disabused me of was my naive belief in the inevitability of progress, the "moral arc of the universe...bend[ing] toward justice" that Obama described, and Hamilton's re-framing of America's founding seemed to be the perfect artistic expression of Obama's ethos. Just like "The Wire" is the perfect signature artistic pairing with the American political landscape of the George W. Bush years, America in the Obama years will always be paired with the cultural impact of Hamilton.

So what's standing out to me in watching this now, as the political messages of Hamilton have been muddied by the 2016 election and its aftermath, is that "Hamilton" is a story about how our childhood traumas shape our lives and our choices forever. Seeing the choreography of the opening number up close paired with the lyrics about Hamilton's early life tells you emphatically that everything that happened in his adult life including his death was shaped by the trauma of losing his parents. Diggs's performance of "Wait For It" drives it home just as emphatically for Burr. The performances push the politics to the background so that the awkwardness of enjoying "Hamilton" in 2020 seems not to sting quite as much.
posted by dry white toast at 9:07 PM on July 3, 2020 [9 favorites]

As an example of what I mean by highlighting details, and to really nerd out to an absurd degree—I am sorry, jump to around 1:12:27 in the Act I finale. Burr does his bit, and then we get a great kind of gritty out-of-focus transition shot as we see Ham and Angelica enter behind him. The focus shifts to them, and we can immediately see Ham's shit-eating grin as he's thrilled at the prospect of being close to Angelica. They look at each other with endearment, the words "I have found a wealthy husband" escape her lips, and that grin instantly turns to something between shock and betrayal. And we're right up close to see it.

The camera stays close with them as they cross downstage, which obscures the fact they've just walked onto the outer ring of the turntable*, and she's already out of frame except for her hand by the time they get to "don't forget to write." We get a wider view as they separate, and then we're right in the middle of the most amazing shot of Ham looking longingly off into the distance at the off-screen Angelica as his wife rotates her way around him, arriving to take her place with a well-timed step off the turntable. It's an extraordinarily well-directed 30 seconds where the stage and screen direction compliment each other.

Keep watching a bit for Burr's "Hamilton wrote the other 51." The sheer resentment he puts into that line is amazing. And finally, just appreciate for a second the amount of effort that goes into something as small as Hamilton writing. One member of the ensemble passes off the quill, another the paper, a third sets up the chair, two with the makeshift desk, then suddenly half the company is supporting the desk, scribble scribble, and a couple seconds later, it's all undone and cleaned up. All of that coordination to support that one little beat, and of course they're all singing and dancing throughout all of it.

* I've always been interested as an audience member in the difference between sitting low enough in the orchestra that you can't see the stage deck and the turntable vs sitting in the balcony where you can, especially since a bunch of the lighting design is focused on projecting textures onto the stage. The film here manages to get the benefit of both, showing the stage floor during some moments where that's essential (e.g. Hurricane) and at other times pulling up to let everyone glide around spookily.
posted by zachlipton at 10:58 PM on July 3, 2020 [7 favorites]

I bought the cast recording years ago and have been listening to it off an on.

Leslie Odom sounds more closed off in the back of the mouth: sharper, shorter, angrier, right from the start. Of course, he's smiling, or grinning, or grimacing, almost constantly.

I'm loving Christopher Jackson's performance.

Reneé Goldsberry is even better than I imagined.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:07 PM on July 3, 2020 [3 favorites]


I'm that friend of yours who doesn't care about musicals and has avoided Hamilton for years even though you promised them it would be great.

It is great. You were right. My bad.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:10 AM on July 4, 2020 [59 favorites]

Introduced my ten year old to the show. We had tickets for June here...but every knows how that has gone.

Man, I did not steel myself for sitting next to my ten year old during "It's Quiet Uptown." I was not ok.
posted by stevis23 at 8:35 AM on July 4, 2020 [5 favorites]

How did they film those closeups ? Not during a real performance I hope ? That would be pretty annoying for the audience.
posted by Pendragon at 9:11 AM on July 4, 2020

The closeups were filmed between shows.
posted by rikschell at 9:28 AM on July 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

Via Screenrant:
Speaking to GMA ahead of Hamilton's release on Disney+, Miranda revealed the shoot took place over the course of three days. It began with a Sunday matinee performance of the show, with cameras placed in the audience to capture the action in wide shots. After the theater emptied out, Miranda said they continued to film "closeups and dolly shots and crane shots" all the way through to the night. The shoot carried on the following Monday (which would've normally been the cast's day off), with Kail and his crew filming "closeups and steadicam and all the coverage you would want to get in a movie." Finally, additional photography took place the following Tuesday morning and night, with cameras once again being placed among the members of the audience during the show's performance that evening.
posted by Etrigan at 9:28 AM on July 4, 2020 [7 favorites]

I read they filmed two live performances and took a third day without an audience to do the closeups.
posted by Preserver at 9:28 AM on July 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

Burr shot first.
posted by sammyo at 1:54 PM on July 4, 2020

It thrills me to no end that anyone (in the US at least) with a smartphone and seven spare bucks can now see this amazing production over and over.

I have now watched this movie six times, seeing things I missed or forgot about in the live show. Did you see the flying chairs?
posted by sageleaf at 6:35 PM on July 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

I have now watched this movie six times

It really rewards repeat viewings. I could watch and then re-watch "Helpless/Satisfied"... well, let's say I haven't hit my limit of how many times i could re-watch those two back-to-back numbers.

I have way more love for "Hurricane," having seen the staging brilliance of it up close with a beautiful wide shot at exactly the right moment, than I ever did seeing in the theater. I gasped at that shot.

This piece is worth study by theater fans, movie fans, and fans of both. Thomas Kail is a hell of a director. I hope that, if more theater follows suit (once it resumes), they get Kail to do the adaptations.
posted by tzikeh at 10:48 AM on July 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

I've been listening to the soundtrack since NPR made the cast recording available, but this is the first time I've been able to see the staging and acting. There's so much happening on stage; I will definitely watch again. Details like the upside down furniture in "The World Turned Upside Down," and huge blind spots like Laurens' death that I never saw or heard.

Unlike Eliza, I never forgive Alexander, even after "Quiet Uptown," but seeing the staging of that number where she does finally forgive him is so moving. Philippa's performance is wonderful.

Now I have a hunger to see the other casts. As much as I love Leslie Odom, Jr. I want to see Brandon Victor Dixon play Burr, and I want to see Javier Munoz as Hamilton. Keep Daveed Diggs and Christopher Jackson forever though.
posted by gladly at 11:52 AM on July 5, 2020 [5 favorites]

I have many thoughts I need to spell out, but I'm going to have to wait until I've got more time...

But I do want to note: I really love that Alexander doesn't earn Eliza's forgiveness. She doesn't owe him her forgiveness; his expressions of grief and guilt aren't treated like "I put the responsibility tokens into the Woman Is Nice To Me machine, when is my forgiveness coming out?" Instead, he's unforgivable, I think, so far as the story's narration is concerned. To my eye, it seems as though she forgives him for her own benefit: she's sad and alone and she needs him. It makes her a person, rather than a plot-bearing obstacle. I love it.
posted by meese at 12:14 PM on July 5, 2020 [34 favorites]

That's a great point, meese. There has never been a single time that song hasn't absolutely wrecked me. The pivot from the unimaginable tragedy of a beloved child dying senselessly and violently to the grace too powerful to name of unearned forgiveness... I'm practically weeping just typing this. The show would still be fabulous with a more pedestrian song in its place, but that moment more than any other lifts it into transcendence for me.
posted by rikschell at 4:44 PM on July 5, 2020 [5 favorites]

There were many parts where it was hard to hear the singing over the music and it has that dynamic range that makes it impossible to watch at night without keeping a finger on the volume button lest you crank it up to hear a quiet thing and crank it down when it goes super loud. I'll have to catch it again during the daytime.

This turned up yesterday: "Weird Al" Yankovic - The Hamilton Polka the music video using footage from the Disney+ release.
posted by zengargoyle at 9:08 PM on July 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm that friend of yours who doesn't care about musicals and has avoided Hamilton for years even though you promised them it would be great.
It is great. You were right. My bad.

I sure hope so.

Friends of ours are wanting us to come over this weekend to watch it. They say it's fantastic, and would watch it over and over. I, being absolutely no fan of musicals whatsoever, am, at best, ambivalent to the prospect. But, I like seeing our friends, so...
posted by Thorzdad at 4:09 AM on July 6, 2020

I saw it on stage with (most of) the original cast (everyone but Soo), and what really felt remarkable was that on stage, Leslie Odom Jr was by far the most magnetic, while on film, it was Daveed Diggs who I couldn't keep my eyes off of. (This is not an insult to either of them -- they're both stellar -- or to anyone else, just a weird commentary on how charisma differs on stage and on film.)
posted by jeather at 2:47 PM on July 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

Hamilton on film is a very different experience than Hamilton on stage
posted by the man of twists and turns
One major difference being: on film, it was possible for me to ever see it
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:52 PM on July 6, 2020 [26 favorites]

"Hamilton" is a story about how our childhood traumas shape our lives and our choices forever.

I think one thing that's been interesting is that while Hamilton has changed for other people, Hamilton hasn't changed for me, because honestly the story of the politics is never really kind of what hooked me.

For me it's so much like LMM tricked Broadway into making yet another awesome musical about the immigrant/minority experience in NYC. It's about childhood traumas, about how you hold yourself tight and distrustful when you're convinced you're going to fall any minute and that the place you hold is balanced on a knife. About making bad decisions when you're lonely and angry all the time and you were pretty sure you were going to be dead already.
posted by corb at 8:07 PM on July 6, 2020 [13 favorites]

I am one of those people who listened to the soundtrack and nothing but for three months on repeat, watched everything I could online, etc. about the show for years.

Well, I saw it and enjoyed it. I liked seeing funny expressions here and there (like Burr cracking up at Jefferson bitching about Hamilton's wardrobe), I had some stuff clarified for me (like "Washington On Your Side" starts with Jefferson and Burr,, not Madison like I assumed, now I know how Philip was played by an adult when he was nine, etc. Probably the most powerful visual was seeing Burr's happy, hopeful face waiting for Hamilton's endorsement...and then seeing it turn into heartbreak.

I think all musicals need to have this filming treatment with the original cast before disbanding. The filming was beautiful. Heck, did you notice how quickly they removed the tablecloth when Burr was jumping on the table? How quickly the cast picked up all of the flyers in less than a minute? I didn't like the one shot of Washington's face from the back before he entered, it was a little awkward, but otherwise, beautiful.

I am watching that extra special on Hamilton right now and it's weirding me out to see Washington and Burr with hair now. I was literally like, "That's Leslie? But he's got hair and is dressed down in a sweatshirt.... that just seems wrong and declasse for him..."

But I admit that in 2020, I have been less jazzed than I would have been in the past. I didn't immediately watch it at midnight on the 3rd like I normally would have, it actually took me several days to get to it and to get through it (I wanted to spend 3 hours uninterrupted to see it and just had to give up on that goal because people kept running late and interrupting me). This is uncharacteristic of me. I guess I just have to chalk it up to 2020 malaise.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:37 PM on July 7, 2020 [6 favorites]

On a related note: "it is four years too late for this to come out, and while I'm sure there are reasons for the delay, it seems bizarre, because the time to capitalize on this would have been right after all the original cast was gone, and yet, it was not, and even this is still earlier than it was planned because my impression is that covid made it come out earlier than it otherwise would have, and I cannot evaluate this proshoot without the baggage of why it's only coming out now when there has been such a clamoring for it, and instead we got a tie-in book and mixtape &etc and, just, I don't know the reasons why this spent so long hidden away and frankly I don't care what they were, but that it's coming out now just highlights that it spent so long in someone's basement or whatever, and.."

I think that covers my less than 100% hype reaction: it's hella late to come out...of course, it wasn't supposed to come out until 2021, so that would have been even worse.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:31 PM on July 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

jeather, I had a very similar experience: Leslie Odom Jr's charisma blew me away even in my nosebleed seats, but with the tv version I catch so much more of Daveed Diggs's movement and expression and it's added new layers to his characters.

I also think that Oak Onaodowan's physical performance as the sickly Madison is so much better appreciated up close. He did such a good, subtle job, particularly in contrast to how physically imposing he is.
posted by TwoStride at 6:48 PM on July 7, 2020

I signed up for Disney+ so I could watch this. I mean, there's other stuff, too, but this got me in. After years of watching snippets, mostly LMM's early performance of "Alexander Hamilton" at the White House and listening to the Hamilton Polka repeatedly, I finally got to see the thing. I watched it at work tonight. I'm probably going to watch it again at least once more this week.

It's amaaaaazing. I'm really glad I got to see it, but I did run into the frequent problem of stuff getting too quiet, and I wasn't going to watch it for the first time with subtitles on.
When I watch it again at home, I'll crank the volume before I start putting subtitles on, which I inevitably will, maybe just to make some of the jokes and other subtleties easier to pick out.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 12:49 AM on July 8, 2020

My wife and I had been talking about moving our cell phones to a family plan to consolidate billing, which we finally did yesterday. In addition to lowering our overall bill and getting an extra discount on top of it because of my wife's status as a part-time student, Verizon also threw in a year of Disney+. I had recently decided I would pay for a month of Disney+ just to watch Hamilton and the Mandalorian, but now we have free access for the year, so of course I watched Hamilton and the first episode of The Mandalorian last night in one sitting.

1. They weren't kidding about Jonathan Groff's spitting. Whew.
2. I had seen the show live from the nosebleed seats at the Kennedy Center, so I was sort of familiar with the lighting effects on stage, but seeing it up close was something else.
3. I want to have as much fun as Daveed Diggs always looks like he's having.
4. From the end credits, I learned a lot about the hip hop history that influenced a lot of the music in the show.
posted by emelenjr at 6:00 AM on July 8, 2020

The staging of "Hurricane" was the standout surprise for me when I watched the show (in 2017). Just breathtaking. I started crying in the moment when Alexander says, "I'll write my way out". Usually I get misty-eyed only much later, at "Quiet Uptown", but the staging, lighting, choreography, and that ineffable animating spark of "Hurricane" completely ruined me for the rest of the show.

And seeing it again in the movie... AHH.
posted by MiraK at 11:52 AM on July 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Just watched it and really loved it. I'm sure that it's more of an experience live on stage but I'm glad that I got to see it in any form. I'm also glad that we got to see a fairly unmolested filming of the actual stage show with the original and not some cinematic remake of it with movie stars who can't sing or dance. I didn't really find the closeups and editing all that disruptive, you can't just setup a camera in the pit and let it run for 160 minutes, that would be painful to watch.
posted by octothorpe at 7:33 PM on July 9, 2020

you can't just setup a camera in the pit and let it run for 160 minutes, that would be painful to watch.

That's not unlike what they've done in the past, it's entirely watchable if a very different experience.
posted by jeather at 5:46 AM on July 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

Leslie Odom Jr's charisma blew me away even in my nosebleed seats, but with the tv version I catch so much more of Daveed Diggs's movement and expression and it's added new layers to his characters.

I was particularly surprised at how much the featured* actors' performances were improved by seeing them vs. hearing the soundtrack.

Diggs, Jackson, and Groff all turned my opinion from "Those dudes had good songs and performed them ably" to "Oh... oh, now I get it. Okay...".

* -- "Featured" is how the Tonys designate what the Oscars call "Supporting" Actors. Diggs won the Tony over Jackson and Groff (and two other poor bastards who didn't stand a chance in hell).
posted by Etrigan at 6:03 AM on July 10, 2020 [2 favorites]

Genius.com (my favorite lyrics website) has incredibly detailed annotations for Hamilton's lyrics: https://genius.com/albums/Lin-manuel-miranda/Hamilton-an-american-musical-original-broadway-cast-recording. It looks like Lin-Manuel Miranda might have actually been involved in verifying the lyrics, and the annotations frequently reference his tweets.
posted by Tehhund at 6:05 AM on July 12, 2020 [6 favorites]

Plus, if you stay to the end of the credits, you get to see the totally endearing Special Thanks credit for "A Train, MTA." There's also a thanks for "Schorfling, Austria" that I'm really curious about.

The "Special Thanks" included all of the different places on Earth where Lin wrote things for the show, including the A train, Schorfling, and other places.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:23 AM on August 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

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