History is not my strong suit. I may be able to tell you lots of funny historical anecdotes and I may have remembered nearly the entire script of Les Misérables – what with it being put to music – but I cannot for the life of me explain what happened when and how it’s connected to some other big event. So if someone makes a movie about history with music and lots of humour, you can bet it’ll be on the top of my watchlist. In other words, I watched Hamilton last week.
Hamilton is 2 hours, 40 minutes long. It manages to fit 47 different songs in that time frame – nearly everything is told through song. The average words per minute is a whopping 144 with 20,520 total words. That’s about 2.4 words per second. This is the fastest for a Broadway ever. Needless to say, there is a lot of rapping. Thankfully, even though “Guns and Ships” has parts that clock in at 6.3 words per second and “Satisfied” has a rap with 5 words per second, you can still understand what is going on if you have a decent understanding of the English language.
There is a lot of modern-day language and slang (case in point: Diametric’ly opposed foes; They emerge with a compromise; having openend doors that were previously closed, bros). There is also an insane amount of ‘yo’s, ‘yao’s and ‘brah’s. To be honest, it was hilarious and I loved it.
Another thing to realize is that Hamilton is not a family movie. You may have seen funny videos with little children vibing to the music, but the themes, ideas and lyrics are not suitable – or interesting – to young children.
Lastly, there is a lot of symbolism. I couldn’t fit this remark in anywhere else, but I love seeing how much thought was put into even small things such as how characters walk, move and emote.
Hamilton tells the story of U.S. Secretary and Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. It isn’t completely historically accurate, but it gets most of the main things right. It starts off with the other characters telling his life up story up to the moment he arrives in America. After that, the story follows chronologically up to his death. It is basically a legal bootleg of the Broadway show: everything still happens on a stage.
The main focuses of the plot were war, politics and relationships. As one Tumblr user put it: Hamilton is weird, because at first it’s all about war and relationships and suddenly you’re excited to see how Hamilton is gonna get his new debt plan through congress. To be fair, the different parts were linked fluently, so that it didn’t feel strange to be so interested in politics all of a sudden.
The fact that everything is told through song helps if you don’t understand something because you can still have fun. I didn’t really get what the whole issue with state debt was, but the fact that it was put into a rap battle was enough to keep me amused.
Other than that, there’s not much to say about the plot. It’s just a very decent, well-written chronological line that’s easy to follow without making things too simple.
In my way of thinking, there are three levels of character exposition (exposition = showing). First off, you have the characters that are so unclear that they’re not easy to get a good grip of. Then, you have characters whose personality is outlined pretty well so they’re all clear. And the best version is a character whose personality is so well shown that you realise how complicated human nature actually is and they become hard to get a good grip of again. The characters in this version are on that top level. There are so many different ones, that I’ll narrow it down to the most important people.
First off, there’s Alexander Hamilton. He’s an immigrant who is “never satisfied” and works “non-stop,” as if he’s “running out of time.” He’s also rather arrogant and talks too much. The song that most describes him is Non-Stop at the end of Act I, which shows him becoming more important, impulsive and arrogant. The interesting things is that in the beginning of the show, he’s still a really nice character, but as it progresses we start to understand why his enemies don’t like him. I like that they didn’t sugercoat him too much.
Aaron Burr is Hamilton’s polar opposite, his motto being: “Talk less. Smile more. Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.” To be honest, the show’s biggest plot twist is realising you care about this dude. His character is actually the one that’s explored most, all the way from his ever-smiling face changing suddenly shortly before the climax to his awesome song “Wait for It,” in which he explains he is not “standing still,” he is “lying in wait.” I absolutely love how the show portrays his flaws, weaknesses and hopes.
Eliza Schuyler become Hamilton’s wife and nobody deserves her. She goes through so much suffering and pain and yet she still forgives the people who hurt her and even goes on to tell their story 50 years after their death. She is sweet, forgiving, loving and, as the internet would call it, a cinnamon roll. I loved her acting, which showed how she may have been delicate but definitely wasn’t weak.
The last character I want to talk about is Angelica, and I’ll just leave the other nine other slightly less important for you to discover yourself. Angelica is Eliza’s older sister and is the only person who really appreciates Eliza’s angelic personality. And so she has decided to be Eliza’s guardian angel, or as she says herself: “I will choose her happiness over mine every time.” Angelica is fiery and definitely not afraid to speak her mind to anybody, no matter how important they are. She is a very strong woman in the more typical way, which I like: we see two women who are both strong, but in different ways.
Warnings and Messages
Let’s start off with some warnings. First off, is it even possible to have non-Christian rap without profanity? From nearly every single fourletter word to other more creative insults, they’ve been kept in. The only exception is the f-word. That’s only ever hinted at and/or substituted with a strange sound or silence. I’m glad they cut them out, but it seems kind of incomplete and useless.
Also, the show is a lot less reverent about sex and relationships than Christians… where it doesn’t affect anybody we know, that is. What I mean by this is that according to the show, you should totally go for it if you’re in love with a married woman nobody in the audience cares about; but you’re a horrible person if you cheat on somebody the audience loves. That’s very hypocrite if you ask me. About the cheating scene: obviously, nobody takes off their clothes as that would be rather unpractical in a theatrical production, but the two people do get… uncomfortably close.
There were so many messages and moral in this movie. I’m going to highlight three. First off, there is a very big emphasis on legacy and the importance of being remembered. The ultimate triumph for Hamilton is when he is remembered and praised years after his death. On the one hand, I agree that it’s nice if people remember you as a good person. On the other hand, as Christians we need to realize that being remembered and receiving honour isn’t the main goal in our life. As Casting Crowns words it: So let me go down […] in history; As another blood-bought faithful member of the family; And if they all forget my name, well, that’s fine with me; I’m living for the world to see; Nobody but Jesus.
The show also puts great emphasis on freedom and fighting for what you want. In some cases this is not so good – for example, when a character literally encourages infidelity on the night of his marriage under the guise of ‘go get what you want.’ In other cases, it makes a good point about not sitting around waiting for luck to help you out.
Lastly, the film showed how important family is: when Hamilton starts to spend so much time on his work that he neglects his family, this is frowned upon. Angelica sacrifices her own happiness various times for Eliza’s sake. It encourages us to love our family and to spend time with them: we need to realize our loved ones are important too.
In short, I strongly recommend this movie, although I do advise you to be careful, as there is a lot of cursing and some scenes that showcase inappropriate behaviour. On the other hand, it has strong messages and is very deep – it’s been two weeks and I still think daily about the show. So if you want to learn more about history, like stories that make you think and can take a pretty large amount of profanity, I suggest you check it out.