Movie Review: IN THE HEIGHTS Starring Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera
The movie event of the summer, In the Heights, finally sees a release theatrically as well as a same-day premiere exclusively on HBO Max.
Directed by Jon M. Chu, and adapted from the musical by Quiara Alegria Hudes and the mastermind behind the Broadway hit Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, In the Heights is a love letter written to the barrio Washington Heights. The film stars Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Stephanie Beatriz, Jimmy Smits, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Olga Merediz, Gregory Diaz IV – and Lin-Manuel Miranda as well as a fantastic and wildly talented supporting ensemble cast. Blown away from the opening number and packing the same punch of a modern musical incorporating rap, culture, and the same richness that fans of Hamilton fell in love with, I have to say that I was absolutely an instant fan. It is very rare that a film like this comes along, but when it does, it is an absolute wonder from beginning to end.
Following Usnavi, who runs a stop-n-shop in Washington Heights, the film sees him, as well as his fellow community members, as they struggle to chase their dreams. With each character, each with a unique dream of their own, we see the adventure of love, loss, and passion integrated with the beauty of Latin culture. With fear that the barrio will disappear, and with it, all of their hopes and dreams, we see as the characters each set out to create their own happiness pulling from the strength from each other – specifically the Matriarch Abuela Claudia, grandmother to all and the backbone of the community. When a blackout hits the block, the heat and feeling of powerlessness poses a challenge. However, defeat isn’t something the Heights are willing to give in to.
The cinematography of the film is absolutely beautiful, filled with color, and creates a visual spectacle that is nothing shy of spectacular. The color and culture are illuminated even further by the extravagant musical numbers, creating a production; an event, not just a typical cinematic experience. As is the case with many musicals, the bar is always being raised and it seems these features exist in a league of their own. The soundtrack is the perfect combination of story and modernized musicality, and I can honestly say that I haven’t seen a film like this before, as it stands alone as what I’m sure will be a musical phenom.
Tackling issues involving loss, immigration, racism, and so much more, I found myself wanting more once the credits rolled. With a runtime just shy of two and half hours, there was not one second I was displeased. During its runtime, the emotional rollercoaster the audience will go through will seem like quite a ride, with plenty of laughs, moments of sadness, and absolute admiration. For fans chasing that feeling the music and production that Hamilton created, creating a cultural phenomenon, I definitely recommend In the Heights, proving the ingenuity Lin-Manuel Miranda possesses. Personally, I can’t wait to see what brainchild of his comes to fruition next. What I can say confidently is that when the credits rolled, I was excited knowing that I would get to watch the film again, and again. In the Heights took the win for me, and while it was quite a wait to see the feature since its delay last year, it was every bit worth it.
In The Heights earns an A+