I became aware of In The Heights a few years ago when a friend of mine who was such a big fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda and particularly Hamilton, a show I didn’t know much of apart from the odd song that would get played. It was about a year ago that Hamilton was released on Disney+ as a live taping of the show with the original cast, which felt special to watch and I loved it. The music is incredible and I thought the story was really interesting, so naturally I was pretty excited to see what In The Heights had to offer and when the first trailer hit, I was just getting more and more excited.
In The Heights follows Usnavi (played by Anthony Ramos) who runs a Bodega in Washington Heights in New York, is counting down the days ’til he moves back to the Dominican Republic as we follow the Latinx community in New York. The film also stars Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace, Corey Hawkins, Jimmy Smits, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Stephanie Beatriz and Dascha Polanco.
This film hits in a similar way that Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again did a couple of years ago, it’s just such a feel good film. Is it perfect? No, but it’s so much fun to watch and definitely has better songs (in my opinion) than the film that uses ABBA songs. As I said in the summary, the film has it’s routes in the Latin side of NYC, so the songs have that influence as well which is part of what makes this film so unique. I’ve been listening to the Latin music for a few years, so I’m perhaps more used to not understanding all the lyrics in songs than most people and general audiences that might struggle with the fact they don’t know what is being said, which can put them off. I think, particularly the younger generation, is more understanding that music (and art in general) is a universal language.
I remember an interview with Lin-Manuel Miranda a couple of years ago at the Oscars where he was saying about how Anthony Ramos is going to be “a star”. I first saw him last year in that Hamilton performance which is on Disney+, which he is great in performing two roles. He is the lead of this film and it’s hard to disagree with Miranda, he certainly is a star, we knew his singing talent and performing on a stage but the screen is a different ball game and he doesn’t disappoint. It’s obviously a role he knows well and I hope to see more of him on the big screen in the coming years showing everyone his talent and what he’s capable of. Similar things can be said about the two female leads, Melissa Barrera and Leslie Grace. Leslie Grace is clearly more of singer given her previous work so I might expect her to stick to that medium apart from for musicals, but she acts well in this so could easily become another one of those many talented people in Hollywood. Barrera might be the one that steals the show and is already lined up for another musical, with the modern reimagining of Carmen and is one of the stars in next year’s Scream. Corey Hawkins, who plays Usnavi’s friend Benny, is one of those people, I’ve seen in a few films but couldn’t quite place but I’ll certainly be remembering the name from now and he’s definitely one that will have plenty of offers on his table and bigger things coming his way.
My only problem with the film really is some of the story beats which seem to me to come as a result of it being translated from the stage play. It’s a long film coming in at 143 minutes, and I’d watch more, but we get a bit of the problem where they’ve squished somethings down. Seemingly the Nina storyline which seemed like the most relevant to what’s going on in the world at the moment, but goes over pretty quickly in the film. There’s also an argument that happens between Usnavi and Vanessa after they go to a club which seemingly comes out of nowhere, just to divide the characters needlessly.
Overall, I really enjoyed the film, there’s some great songs and great moments with a fantastic cast and some nice cinematography and choreography, to fill that musical void we’ve been missing in the cinema for some time.
I, as always, went to log my rating of the film on my Letterboxd and saw a review criticising the fact that the film doesn’t really have an antagonist. I started thinking about other films that don’t have an antagonist: The Martian, Grease, Finding Nemo, La La Land, Castaway, Chef, The Breakfast Club, Good Will Hunting, About Time, 127 Hours, Inside Out, A Star is Born, Minari, My Neighbour Totoro, Rush, Forrest Gump, Boyhood. I think I’ve proven my point, they’re nitpicking much. But I could do a whole post just talking about the problems of people who review on Letterboxd, similar to the problems I have with Twitter.
What did you think of In The Heights?
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