Movie Review: Satisfied – Tribeca Film Festival 2024

June 28, 2024

Satisfied: a feeling of being content or pleased, this can be a feeling of need or desire to have a family or achieve a major goal, like winning a Tony award. This is also the name of a song sung by a character named Angelica Schuyler, beginning with her as the maid of honor raising a toast to the newlyweds, Alexander Hamilton and her sister Eliza. The song quickly takes a turn when the set and performers rewind and events are told through Angelica’s perspective, with her realizing she will never be satisfied. This may sound familiar because this is from a Broadway production called Hamilton, an American Musical…you may have heard of it.

In 2015 the critically acclaimed Hamilton premiered and was created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, this sung-and-rapped-musical biography of Alexander Hamilton changed the musical theater forever. Instead of performing traditional show tunes, the show incorporated hip-hop, R&B, soul, and pop music. Hamilton also broke ground by casting actors of color to portray the Founding Fathers.

One of the cast members whose life was completely transformed was Renée Elise Goldsberry, who captivated audiences as Angelica Schuyler. Recently during the Tribeca Film Festival, I had the opportunity to watch Satisfied, a documentary directed by Chris Bolan and Melissa Haizlip which took me on a journey throughout Renee’s life, from being a Broadway actress to working on this new musical, and becoming a mother after dealing with her issues with fertility.

Renée Elise Goldsberry was a seasoned actress before Hamilton. Starring as attorney Evangeline Williamson on ABC’s One Life to Live, and is no stranger to performing on the Broadway stage. She has performed in productions like The Lion King and Dreamgirls, taking on roles like Nettie Harris in The Color Purple, and Mimi Márquez in Rent. With all these accomplishments in theater and television, she still felt like something was missing.

Satisfied takes a look at deeply personal parts of Goldsberry’s life. During her time on shows like One Life to Live and The Color Purple (around 2005), Goldsberry begins to talk about her issues with fertility, explaining how she has had issues with getting pregnant despite being a healthy person overall. Sharing a sad moment in her life, experiencing a 5th pregnancy that ended in a miscarriage. However, in 2008, after her final performance in Rent, she discovered she was pregnant again. Thereafter she gave birth to her son Benjamin and took time to focus on being a mother showing Iphone footage of family life with her son like playing the park and birthday parties, but then she started getting calls for the Hamilton Mix-Tape.

The film proceeds to talk about the early stages of Hamilton’s development, showing that Goldsberry was an early pick for the role of Angelica Schuyler. She worried she wasn’t the right fit for the role, considering that they were looking for a “Nicki Minaj” type actress to perform the rap parts of the musical. However, upon hearing the song “Satisfied” for the first time, Goldsberry was sold and accepted the audition. We now see the creation of Hamilton through personal vlogs recorded by Goldsberry, taking viewers on the behind-the-scenes look at rehearsals, cast celebrations, goofing off on set, and preparing for the Off-Broadway run at the Public Theater on 425 Lafayette St. Amidst the excitement of the production, we discover that she is pregnant again. Feeling overjoyed about this news, there is a moment of realization that she needs to leave the show, she will be too far into pregnancy to perform when the show makes its debut on stage. We unfortunately do find out later in the film that she also loses this pregnancy. These scenes also have vlog footage of Goldsberry adopting her second child, a daughter from Ethiopia. Feeling satisfied at the point she was at in her life, all of Goldsberry’s energy was put into preparing for the Broadway debut of the show.

On August 6, 2015, at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, on 226 W 46th St. Hamilton‘s premiere was the start of a worldwide phenomenon. With tickets selling out, streets on or around the theater closed due to the high demand of people, trying to catch a glimpse of the cast, or waiting on stand-by. Hamilton was everywhere and became one of Broadway’s most popular shows. This parallels with vlogs of Goldsberry’s life as the only working mother on the Hamilton cast at the time. Having to work 12 hours a day left little time to spend with her family and the responsibility of taking care of her two kids rested on their father, Alexis. Towards the end of the film, Goldsberry revisits her drama teacher, reflecting on her journey and her love for acting. Interwoven with moments of her achievements, such as her performance at the White House for the Obamas, winning a Tony Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in 2016.

I’m speaking as someone who is not a fan of documentaries, and was interested in seeing this film because I enjoy the show and the songs of Hamilton. I feel like this film is great with keeping the focus on Goldsberry’s life and her struggles with being a working mother and issues with having a family. Even though the name of the film is called “Satisfied”, it does not focus a lot on the production of Hamilton (which can be its own documentary) Instead, it focuses on Goldsberry’s experience working on the show and its impact on her life. Showing often-unseen realities of a Broadway actor’s life of dedication and challenges while maintaining and taking care of a family. I also enjoy that this film does not shy away from sensitive subjects like unexplained infertility, a common issue faced by many women. By sharing her story, it shows other women who watch this film that if they are also going through the same issues, regardless of career success or social status, fertility struggles are a human experience that can affect anyone.

Overall I feel that the film was very grounded and real, and if you are a fan of Renée Elise Goldsberry or Hamilton, you would enjoy this movie. This documentary will bring the emotions of happiness for Goldsberry’s accomplishments, sadness for her struggles, and inspiration from her determination to overcome those struggles. With sprinkles of Hamilton behind-the-scenes footage and songs for the fans.

The film ends with a powerful performance of Satisfied which was filmed for Disney+, a fitting end to a film that celebrates her life. After a remarkable two-year run, Goldsberry bids farewell to Hamilton, leaving audiences with a lasting impression of her talent, and continues her life in NYC with her two children Benjamin, Brielle, and husband Alexis… achieving the dream she has always wanted.

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