IN THE HEIGHTS – A Review by Cynthia Flores

IN THE HEIGHTS – A Review by Cynthia Flores

Calling all Hamilton the musical fans. That would include all the thousands of people that paid way too much to see it live on Broadway (me) and on tour, as well as people that saw it on Disney+ (me as well). Have I got a movie for you to enjoy, In the Heights! Hitting the big screen in theaters near you with music and lyrics by the incredibly talented Lin-Manuel Miranda and script by Quiara Alegria Hudes. This big flashy movie musical is the film version of the 2008 Broadway hit of the same name. In fact, that stage show won three Tonys, including Best Musical. Making the then 28-year-old Miranda the youngest winner ever for best original score. That being said, you will see in this film the rap stylings for songs and the love for immigrants chasing their dreams that would become the seeds for the now-iconic Hamilton

As a movie, In the Heights is touching and fun. It tells the story of a neighborhood called Washington Heights in Manhattan, that’s in the midst of becoming gentrified. Right now, it’s not an affluent spot. But it is a culturally rich ethnic place to live. Brown people, South Americans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans living side-by-side just trying to raise their families and get ahead. At the center of the story, we have a sweet-natured, almost thirty, Bodega owner named Usnavi (Anthony Ramos). Working in his store just outside of the 181st Street subway stop. He saved every penny from his daily grind to put towards his dream. He hopes and sings about a better life moving back to the Dominican Republic and taking over his late fathers’ run-down little bar named “Little Dream” in Spanish. 

As he works towards his goals, we meet the people that populate his life and neighborhood, like his smart high school-aged cousin Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV) that works for him in the store. And his roommate and surrogate grandmother that practically raised him, Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz). She has a song in the film that will have you crying buckets. She originated the role on Broadway and won a Tony for her performance. Then Usnavi, of course, has a love interest in the talented and beautiful Vanessa (Melissa Barrera). She dreams of moving downtown and designing clothes. Several storylines play out during this great musical. Like Nina (Leslie Grace), home from her first year at an Ivy League college who is afraid to return. While her proud father, Kevin Rosario (Jimmy Smits), who owns the local cab company, and her boyfriend Benny (Corey Hawkins) try to give her the confidence not to quit. Add to the story the loss of the local and beloved beauty salon owned by Daniela (Daphne Rubin-Vega) who is forced to move to the Bronx. She can’t afford the rent any longer due to the gentrification on the block. You also have a blackout in the middle of the summer to stir things up. Cue the music and go! Oh yeah, then there’s the little thing of the bodega selling the winning lottery ticket at the store. The winner gets $96,000.00, and the whole neighborhood gets to dream what it would be like to be the winner. 

In the Heights plays out in the real world instead of just filming the production on the stage. This gives director Jon M. Chu from 2018s’ Crazy Rich Asians fame the challenge of making all the singing and dancing look like it belongs on the dirty streets of New York. His use of the city is perfect and compliments all the musical numbers. Also, look for Lin-Manuel Miranda as the piragua guy. It’s a role he originated in the Broadway production while he was first dreaming up Hamilton.

I give In the Heights a 5-star rating. It’s a great story of Brown Pride, Love, and Strength all set to a killer beat and soundtrack. 

 

Directed by: Jon M. Chu

Written by: Ouiara Alegria Hudes, Lin-Manuel Miranda

Rated: PG-13

Selig Rating: 5 Stars

Running Time: 2h 23min

Musical / Drama

Wide Theatrical Release: In theaters and HBO MAX June 10th

Starring: Anthony Ramos. Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Olga Merediz

 

The Selig Rating Scale:

5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.

4 Stars – Good movie

3 Stars – OK movie

2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.

1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.

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