Hamilton movie review: Film adaptation of the iconic Broadway on Disney+ boasts of rich archival value
The audience on Disney+ Hotstar get beyond 'the best seat in the house' through the agile cinematography that documents Hamilton.
Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton on Disney+ Hotstar screams for a theatrical release. A film adaptation of the iconic Broadway show created by Miranda in 2008, Hamilton merits a big-screen release for reasons more than witnessing its sorcerous splendour in cinemas.
The streaming platform allows the viewer to watch Hamilton with short breaks peppered all over. It also gives them the cataclysmic luxury to watch the recorded show at 1.5x speed or rewind the bits they missed deciphering. These tools are weapons of choice for the new-age viewer who feels entitled to instant entertainment. But both interventions robs Hamilton of its inherent and intricately designed breathless pace.
Yes, as is well known a fact, Hamilton is not a stage show bogged down by drudgery. It is vibrant in every corner, every aspect, every beat. Yet, for those not up to speed about its background and plot, may not warm up to the over-2.5-hour-long film. But I suggest even if it tests your patience frequently, you may not regret hanging in there.
Hamilton is an interpretation by Miranda of Ron Chernow's 2004 book Alexander Hamilton, that traces the story of a founding father of the US and the first Secretary of the Treasury under George Washington's administration. What makes Miranda's version unique is the lens through which it tells history. It is a story of "that America" told by "the America of today." It combines hip-hop with traditional storytelling and visual aesthetic, and also hires Black actors as the founding fathers in a revisionist tale.
The making of this film can also be a masterclass in adapting a stage musical into its cinematic counterpart. Declan Quinn's agile cinematography makes a meal of the magic on display. It not only keenly documents this 2016 show at Robert Rodgers Theatre, New York City but also enhances it through the kaleidoscopic perspectives of a camera. The audience goes beyond the 'best seat in the house' through close-ups, wide angles, diagonals, shots from the back of the stage, and a couple of stunning top shots that make Hamilton transcend its form.
Intimacy is given equal regard as spectacle by both Quinn and director Thomas Kail. The overarching emotion is as pulsating as the visibly throbbing veins in the actors' throats.
There is ought to be comparison to attending Broadway, or any stage performance for that matter, and the absence of the electrifying environment. The audience also has several fleeting aural cameos in the film. They can be seen hooting to popular and terribly relevant lines like, "Immigrants! We get the job done" or laughing at the histrionics of Jonathan Groff (who plays an otherwise morose King George in a ruby-red attire and crown). Their laughter lends the proceedings an air of live investment, as opposed to the technologically planted laughter cues one's ears are attuned to today.
It is evident yet worthy of reiteration that Miranda and other cast members, along with stage designer David Korins, costume designer Paul Tazewell, accompanied by the other crew, have completely inhabited their parts, having performed them for years in front of live crowds. Editor Jonah Moran ensures the choreography of actors, lights, props, and cameras are run against the beats of Miranda's memorable music — a cocktail of rock, hip-hop, and jazz. Among the many spectacular sequences that seem to look as enticing on screen is the sequence of 'Satisfied' featuring Renee Elise Goldsberry.
Phillipa Soo brings an endearing quality to the role of Hamilton's wife Eliza. Like Goldsberry's Angelica, who plays her sister, she brings a lot to the table, despite the usual tendency around the world to relegate women to the peripheries of history books. As she underlines in the concluding segment, Eliza lives long enough to tell her husband's story, who was shot dead because of his idealism. The film on Disney+ serves the same purpose by chronicling a legendary show that may not physically outlast the lives of its creator and other participants.
Hamilton, the film, is a timely reminder that live shows will live on, not only in the memory of the audience, but also on streaming platforms like these — coronavirus outbreak or not.
It is a travesty then that those watching Hamilton, particularly the ones not acquainted with American history, will not be able to have the same fun that the actors on stage. Their joy is infectious but probably not to the extent of the runtime. In the long run, the archival value of 'HamilFilm' may supersede its entertainment quotient.
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