In the coming weeks, you may be inundated with conjoining sentences, interrogative and imperative: Have you seen In the Heights? You must see In the Heights!
While the rest of the subjective review follows, I can summarize by saying that yes, the hype is real.
In the Heights is the musical story of several individuals living within a largely Dominican NYC neighborhood called Washington Heights including: Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) who dreams of reopening his father’s island homeland bar; Nina (Leslie Grace) on school break, questioning if she belongs at Stanford; Vanessa (Melissa Barrera) who longs for a better career; and Benny (Corey Hawkins), the resident who believes the familial power of the community can cure all. Over some of the hottest days of the year, their stories intertwine with others as they discover and recognize their own personal inspirations and potential.
What works in In the Heights is just about everything—don’t be surprised if the film is nominated within multiple technical and artistic categories at the next Academy Awards. To start, director Jon M. Chu updates, adapts, (and even edits) the original award-winning show by Lin-Manual Miranda (Hamilton) with an adept hand. The entire experience is a symphony of joy that will wash over audiences like a warm breeze. This largely due to several factors that come together in a pitch perfect way.
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First, the performances are incredible. It is difficult to name a standout among the incredible cast—all of the characters have oodles of depth, humor, and charisma that it’s impossible not to smile along with them, especially when they break into song. And that’s perhaps one of In the Heights’ secret weapons: there is no categorical antagonist or real conflict. Instead, In the Heights simply presents different perspectives to tricky situations, but all coming from places of love.
Next, the music and choreography are out of this world. Here, Chu leverages his previous music video directing experiences and elevates it to…new heights (sorry)…by teaming with choreographer Christopher Scott and some fabulous work by costume designer Mitchell Travers (Hustlers). The result are dance sequences that engage and pop from the first note to the last, each with their own delightful personality and style.
The only individuals who may not appreciate or enjoy In the Heights are those who loathe movie musicals (and even among them, there may some converts). It should be noted that In the Heights is bilingual and intentionally only some lines have subtitles. This is no way should deter any viewer, but rather just be aware that your settings are just fine.
In the Heights is special. It gets its release at the absolute perfect time, providing for many a needed ray of sunshine. This movie comes with the absolute highest of recommendations and is simply not be missed.
Recommended if you enjoyed: Rent, Hamilton
FINAL GRADE: A+