What To Watch This Weekend: 'Hamilton' And 'John Lewis: Good Trouble,' Reviewed The musical blockbuster about the political activism of the Founding Fathers, Hamilton, and a documentary about a current activist, John Lewis: Good Trouble, will hit the home screen this weekend.
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What To Watch This Weekend: 'Hamilton' And 'John Lewis: Good Trouble,' Reviewed

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What To Watch This Weekend: 'Hamilton' And 'John Lewis: Good Trouble,' Reviewed

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What To Watch This Weekend: 'Hamilton' And 'John Lewis: Good Trouble,' Reviewed

What To Watch This Weekend: 'Hamilton' And 'John Lewis: Good Trouble,' Reviewed

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The musical blockbuster about the political activism of the Founding Fathers, Hamilton, and a documentary about a current activist, John Lewis: Good Trouble, will hit the home screen this weekend.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Two tales of social activism - a documentary and a blockbuster musical - hit the home screen this weekend. Of course, the musical is "Hamilton," about a previously unsung founding father. The documentary is "John Lewis: Good Trouble," about a civil rights crusader who's been making history since the 1960s. Critic Bob Mondello says the activism in both films strikes fresh chords today.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: At political rallies, John Lewis likes to tell the story of his childhood, when his aim was to be a preacher.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN LEWIS: I wanted to preach so much, we would gather all of our chickens together in the chicken yard, and I would start preaching to those chickens.

(LAUGHTER)

LEWIS: They would bow their heads. They would shake their heads. They never quite said amen.

(LAUGHTER)

LEWIS: But they tended to listen to me much better than some of my colleagues on the other side listen to me today in the Congress.

MONDELLO: Lewis has preached the gospel of civil rights since the 1960s, and many of this reverent portrait's best moments come when documentarian Dawn Porter sits him down in front of a screen to watch and comment on moments in which he was pivotal - the original Freedom Rides, lunch counter sit-ins, and that bridge in Selma in 1965.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE")

JOHN CLOUD: It will be detrimental to your safety to continue this march. And I'm saying that this is an unlawful assembly. You are ordered to disperse, go home, or go to your church.

LEWIS: We said, Major, may I have a word? He said, there will be no word.

MONDELLO: Ever willing in his youth to suffer a concussion to wake the country's conscience, he's matter-of-fact as he watches today.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE")

LEWIS: I was hit in the head. My knees went from under me. I thought I was going to die on the bridge.

MONDELLO: "John Lewis: Good Trouble" offers a straight-ahead chronicle. Six decades in public life alongside Martin Luther King Jr., and then crusading for such causes as gun control and an African American history museum, Lewis, in the film's telling, has never stopped fighting and has never stopped encouraging others to take up the fight.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE")

LEWIS: And you only pass this way once, and you have to give it all you have.

MONDELLO: Don't, in other words, throw away your shot at making the world a more equitable place.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY SHOT")

LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA: (As Alexander Hamilton, singing) I am not throwing away my shot.

MONDELLO: The musical "Hamilton" sees that same impulse in a founding father.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY SHOT")

MIRANDA: (As Alexander Hamilton, singing) Hey, yo, I'm just like my country. I'm young, scrappy and hungry, and I'm not throwing away my shot.

MONDELLO: We meet him, played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, as he's arriving in New York still a teenager in 1776, and we follow his progress as he raps and strategizes his way into history and onto the $10 bill, much to the annoyance of Aaron Burr, played by Leslie Odom Jr. He's a cross between Iago and Salieri.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALEXANDER HAMILTON")

LESLIE ODOM JR: (As Aaron Burr, singing) How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore go on and on, grow into more of a phenomenon?

MONDELLO: You may have heard that Miranda's storytelling is every bit as revolutionary as "Hamilton's" story - history as a hip-hop adrenaline rush. It's masterstroke - the casting of the nation's founders as people of color. Brings fresh resonance to notions of a nation of immigrants unshackling themselves from their king - yes? - especially with Jonathan Groff's George III reading as an imperiously foppish '60s Brit pop star...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU'LL BE BACK")

JONATHAN GROFF: (As King George, singing) Oceans rise, empires fall.

MONDELLO: ...One whose response to upstarts in the streets sounds eerily familiar across two centuries.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU'LL BE BACK")

GROFF: (As King George, singing) And when push comes to shove, I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love.

MONDELLO: What's arriving on Disney+ is the stage "Hamilton" Broadway audiences saw in June 2016, right after the show won a slew of Tony awards and a Pulitzer, and just before the dazzling original cast scattered. They do dazzle - from Miranda's Hamilton, to Daveed Diggs as a rock star of a Thomas Jefferson, to Phillipa Soo's vulnerable Eliza.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BURN")

PHILLIPA SOO: (As Eliza Hamilton, singing) Your sentences left me defenseless. You built me palaces out of paragraphs. You built cathedrals.

MONDELLO: Capturing live theater has advanced since the days when filmmakers put one camera in the balcony and another on the lip of the stage. What director Thomas Kail has crafted in filming his stage "Hamilton" is revolution as revelation, lighting that explodes in blasts of cannon fire, cameras choreographed to stutter through battlefields then swoop in for intimate close-ups that no fifth-row orchestra seat could match, all for a story that reflects the tumult of the birth of America through the tumult of the times we're living.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHO LIVES, WHO DIES, WHO TELLS YOUR STORY")

CHRIS JACKSON: (As George Washington, singing) Let me tell you what I wish I'd known when I was young and dreamed of glory. You have no control...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, singing) ...Who lives, who dies, who tells your story.

MONDELLO: Christopher Jackson's George Washington uttering the message of "Hamilton," a breathtaking accomplishment that is especially now haunting as you come back from it to the world outside our living room.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HISTORY HAS ITS EYES ON YOU")

JACKSON: (As George Washington, singing) History has its eyes on you.

MONDELLO: I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HISTORY HAS ITS EYES ON YOU")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, singing) History has its eyes on you.

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