Will It Leave You “Satisfied”?
Hamilton is now on Disney Plus. It was filmed from a production done in 2016 and edited to make it more accessible to an audience sitting at home (i.e. including close-ups).
It, like the show, received massive critical acclaim, but it is not without its flaws. Nothing is without its flaws, of course, but today we’re going to take a look at Hamilton through a critical lens. What’s good about it? What could be improved? And the issues surrounding historical accuracy in the life of Alexander Hamilton and the other founding fathers.
The Broadway show won 11 Tony Awards. Falling just short of the record of 12 held by The Producers. Having seen both shows, I’m not 100% sure I agree with The Producers deserving this honour but whatever. Along with a Grammy Award and the goldarn Pulitzer Prize.
It’s also been met with widespread acclaim from critics. It’s so beloved by audiences that at one point the waiting list to get a ticket to see Hamilton was almost a year, and tickets could cost over $800.
With that said, obviously this show is fantastic overall. One of the major elements that make Hamilton (the Disney Plus version in particular) so special is the cast. Leslie Odom Jr., Daveed Diggs, and Renee Elise Goldsberry all won acting Tony awards for their portrayals. And from watching the show it is clear that they are incredibly strong performers. Especially Diggs in his dual role as Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson.
In fact, the majority of the cast is exceptional in their roles, with one exception (we’ll get to that later though). Which makes the entire experience more enjoyable.
The music is top-notch, with the way the show moves from one song to another making the already-long show (almost three hours) breeze by. The raps are well-written and entertaining. Plus they tell an interesting story (mostly historically accurate) about the founding of America. So it’s educational and has great music!
The song “My Shot” of course has gotten most of the love from the show. But there are many songs from the show that have gotten critical acclaim. To the point that there was a Hamilton Mixtape created of covers of the shows’ songs by popular artists.
One additional thing that I’ve found enjoyable about Hamilton is also the way in which it presents Aaron Burr (sir!) as a sympathetic figure. While he is in many ways the villain of the story (since he does kill Alexander Hamilton). The show tracks his progression as someone who – at the very least – has sympathetic undertones and you can understand why his relationship with Hamilton soured to the point that Burr challenged him to a duel. It reminds me, in some ways, of how Andrew Lloyd Webber created the character of Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar.
What’s Not So Good?
We’ll get to the historical accuracy/inaccuracy issues in the next section. Though, I mean, it’s a show…it’s not really required to be 100% historically accurate, they’re trying to entertain, but moving on. But after watching Hamilton on Disney Plus, there are two things that stand out, one in a minor way but one in a more major way.
The first one, tying back to the “good” category, is that a lot of the songs kind of either repeat or blend together. I mean, of course, the songs are all very good and the raps are good. But, other than a handful of songs (i.e. “You’ll Be Back,” “Helpless,” “It’s Quiet Uptown”) they all kind of blend together and/or repeat themselves.
Many musicals have several songs that stand out and are clearly delineated. But the sung/rapped-through nature of Hamilton means you don’t always know where one song ends and the other begins. But that’s something of a minor nitpick.
The second, and more prominent, issue? I mean…we have to address the elephant in the room here. Lin-Manuel Miranda is a brilliant lyricist, a great composer, and what seems to be an all-around good guy and inspirational story. But Lin-Manuel Miranda as an actor and singer? He’s…he’s not great, Bob. His rapping is OK, but the rest of it…not so much.
In fact, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s performance as Alexander Hamilton almost kind of drags the whole production down at times. The role is one that could be so powerful and meaningful. But he’s just kind of there like he’s the one sleeping with the creator of the show. Except, I mean, he is the creator so, erm, what ya gonna do? Kind of like how Sarah Brightman got the role of Christine in Phantom of the Opera because she was married to Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Like, for instance: the song “It’s Quiet Uptown,” which Alexander Hamilton sings after his son is killed in a duel. When Lin-Manuel sings it, it’s…fine. It’s sad, it has some poignant moments, but not much else. But when you hear Kelly Clarkson perform it on the Hamilton mixtape? It’s a dagger through your heart. And that’s what I mean: with a better, more capable performer in the role of Hamilton, it would make a great show even better.
Hamilton & The Historical Accuracy Questions
Like with any major work based on history. There have been some criticisms of the historical nature of Hamilton’s portrayal of its subjects.
Of them, many of the inaccuracies in the show were minor and/or were done for dramatic intent (see the second link for specifics). For instance, it was highly unlikely that Alexander Hamilton ever truly punched the bursar at his university. But it could be argued that this particular line was more for dramatic effect, rhythm and flow. And to show that Hamilton was someone who would do whatever it took to stand up for what he believed in.
However, there are some credibility issues with the show (as noted in the first link especially). The main ones being that Hamilton was continuing in a trend of making the founding fathers look more heroic that they may have actually been. Especially in response to recent political events in America. And also that – despite the musical making it seem like Alexander Hamilton was staunchly anti-slavery and worked to try and get rid of it. Tthe historical Hamilton never really wrote much on the topic of abolishing slavery and never was known to be as against it as the show made him out to be.
That last point is the most controversial about the show. But really…while the show aimed at being educational to some degree, it is still entertainment. And while entertainment can also double as education. It is technically not Lin Manuel Miranda’s job to be 100% accurate…it’s to tell an interesting, engaging, fun story. Which Hamilton is.
A Summary and Review
It’s really an outstanding overall. But the little things – i.e. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s performance, how many of the songs blend in together – hold it back from me giving it the full 10/10. I wonder, though, if a stronger and more trained actor would assume the role of Alexander Hamilton. If my opinion wouldn’t improve, even though it’s already very high.
If you haven’t seen it already, you should.
CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 8/10
Thanks for reading our review of Hamilton, currently streaming on Disney Plus. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.
Read more of our TV content HERE.
Read IMDB information about Hamilton HERE.
9 Bands You Forgot Played Themselves In Movies
There are more bands than you think that played themselves on the big screen. Here are nine bands you might’ve forgotten appeared in movies.
1. Alice Cooper – Wayne’s World (1992)
Being a teenager in the nineties was great for many reasons. Two of those being the release of the Wayne’s World movies. The genius that is Mike Myers created one of the best music-based films of all time. Plus, he convinced one of the greatest rock musicians of all time to be in it. If you’re not a geek like me, you may have forgotten that Alice Cooper was featured in the film. It had the iconic scene of Wayne and Garth meeting, Alice, backstage on bent knees. We’re not worthy, indeed. Alice himself pulls off the diva Rockstar brilliantly, even though he’s a genuine, down-to-earth guy who plays a lot of golf.
2. Primus – Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
Let’s try and erase the recent Bill & Ted movie from our memory and head back to 1991 for their bogus journey. They come from the future to kill the non-robot versions of themselves and ruin their performance at a Battle of the Bands competition. What’s cool is the band who are playing before them. Californian alt-metal kings Primus. Although the clip is only short, they play themselves and sound as you would expect. Epic.
3. Fall Out Boy – Sex Drive (2008)
You’d be forgiven for forgetting about this one. The teen sex comedy from 2008 is forgettable and won’t really appeal to anyone apart from its teen target audience. If you can sit through all the cringe-inducing moments, you will spot pop-rockers Fall Out Boy. They are performing in a barn in front of some drunk Amish teenagers. There’s a reason for that, but I won’t bore you with it here. What is good, is the soundtrack of the film. As well as Fall Out Boy, it features Airbourne, AC/DC and weirdly, Kenny Loggins.
4. Twisted Sister – Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Paul Reuben’s character Pee Wee Herman made his big-screen outing in 1985. The children’s show star had a scene where he is being chased through a studio parking lot. Unbeknown to him, glam rockers Twisted Sister are recording a music video on a car. Lead singer Dee Snider is always up for a laugh, so it’s no surprise they’re featured. The clip is brilliant. Pee Wee’s prop-laden bike is just about to crash into Twisted Sister and the look on Dee’s face is genius. Go check out the clip.
5. David Bowie – Zoolander (2001)
Who can forget the brilliant Zoolander? Starring Ben Stiller as the dippy model, it’s one of the funniest comedies ever made. One of the best scenes of the film is the walk-off. This involved Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson’s characters doing a catwalk-off. Of sorts. Can you remember who refereed it? The legend himself, David Bowie. It’s not the first time Bowie was in a movie – remember Labyrinth? But this time, he plays himself. And does it with all the cool swagger you would expect.
6. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Clueless (1995)
I can’t say that I was a massive fan of this teen comedy at the time. The plot revolves around Alicia Silverstone’s character giving her friend a makeover. The premise doesn’t sound like it lends itself to a cool band cameo. You’d be wrong, though. There’s a scene where the lead characters go watch a gig. The band that are playing are The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The Boston ska-punk legends are only on stage for a moment, but it’s a slick clip. It certainly brings the film up a level on the cool stakes.
7. Daft Punk – Tron: Legacy (2010)
This sequel to the original sci-fi classic is a cracking movie. The visuals and effects are stunning, as is the atmosphere of the film. The music to the film is also rather special. A futuristic and dystopian movie could only have one act doing the score, and that’s Daft Punk. It works a treat. The music is intertwined into the movie and becomes a part of it. The delicious electronica is the perfect complement to the visuals. The French electronic masters also have a cameo at the end of the movie. They’re spinning the decks in a blink-and-you-miss-it scene.
8. Aerosmith – Wayne’s World (1993)
We’ve already had an appearance from the first film further up our list, and the second doesn’t disappoint either. The plot revolves around Wayne and Garth putting on their own music festival. Book them and they will come, is the advice given. And they certainly did. The headline band for the festival were none other than Aerosmith themselves. They do a sterling effort on stage as performers. And Steven Tyler also shows that he can handle his own on the acting front too.
9. Reel Big Fish – BASEketball (1998)
Trey Parker and Matt Stone star in this bizarre and hilarious sports comedy. Written by the king of spoof David Zucker, it’s become a cult classic. The soundtrack heavily features ska-punkers Reel Big Fish. They do a brilliant rendition of A-HA’s Take on Me, which they also perform in the movie. The band are the entertainment at the stadium where Parker and Stone are competing. You can tell by the footage that the band are clearly enjoying themselves. They add a touch more fun to an already hugely funny film.
That’s our list of nine bands who played themselves in movies. Did we miss any of your favourites? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out our list of actors in bands HERE.
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