Tribeca 2024 Review: Satisfied

Filled with Renée Elise Goldsberry’s self-recorded archival clips, this new documentary traces her meteoric ride on the Hamilton express at the same time she was attempting to balance her role as a mother to two young children. 

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As directed by Chris Bolan and Melissa Haizlip, the documentary hones in on one specific era of Goldsberry’s career and parenthood, rather than presenting an overall biography of her career. While it’s interesting to watch Goldsberry’s total experience with Hamilton, from its earliest workshops to the final movie, the overall project feels a bit lacking due to its narrow focus. New interviews with Goldsberry and Hamilton alums Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ariana DeBose can’t mask the fact that the show’s phenomenal rise happened almost a decade ago, while Goldsberry has participated in many other notable projects both before and since then. Aside from a brief snippet from a Girls5eva red carpet and a recent shot of her and her much older kids on the subway, the film of its still-relevant star is largely a time capsule of a bygone era. 

With a performer who has been steadily working for decades, it’s odd that the biggest featured moment from her past is a reunion with her elderly high school drama teacher as they reminisce about his casting of her as a non-traditional lead in South Pacific. We see a bit of her role as the final Mimi in the filmed closing night of Rent on Broadway, but mostly just to learn that it was during that performance she first suspected she was pregnant with her son. Her years on One Life to Live and The Good Wife are almost entirely glossed over, as are any traces of the long and winding grind she must have taken on Broadway before finally breaking through.

Where the film succeeds the most is via Goldsberry’s archival video confessionals recorded during her Hamilton life, a truly prescient and amazing compilation of now-historic material. We see Goldsberry’s thoughts as the show takes form, from its workshop to initial off-Broadway run and through its massive Broadway success, with Goldsberry video-scrapbooking all along the way. It’s an amazing trove of previously unseen footage for Hamilton fans, and a peek behind the curtain of its personal impact on her. 

The film attempts to document the difficult balance between her professional career and her strong family unit, exploring the question of how one can be a star and a mom at the same time. She had an even harder path than most, suffering multiple miscarriages before finally giving birth to her son and later adopting her daughter. She also came to motherhood and stardom later in life, already in her mid-40s by the time Hamilton started, much older than most of her castmates and the only mother in the cast. While she intended to step away from performing to raise her family with her husband, she managed to make it all happen and found fulfillment as both a performer and mother. 

Viewers looking for a full picture of Goldsberry’s career won’t be satisfied, but the film’s specific focus yields a winning portrait of her early motherhood years and her time with Hamilton.

Steve Geise

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