Friday Film Review--"In The Heights"
The new film, “In the Heights” proves that home is really where the heart is. That’s the word from Libby Wadman, who has this week’s Friday Film Review.
With summer starting and looking like it’s going to be a hot one, director Jon Chu and writer Lin-Manuel Miranda have raised the temperature and level of fun with the movie adaptation of Miranda’s first Broadway hit, “In the Heights”.
With the excruciating heatwave, during the summer of 1999, in full swing, bodega owner Usnavi’s community of Washington Heights, in upper Manhattan, is feeling the heat, not only from Mother Nature, but from rising costs, gentrification, and the chasing of individual dreams. Usnavi himself, is chasing a dream to return to the Dominican Republic to reestablish the bar his father ran prior to coming to the United States. Usnavi hopes to return to what he calls the best days. As the summer progresses and Usnavi gets closer to realizing his dream, he starts to listen to the voices of his community and begins to realize that sometimes what you need is right in front of you.
“In the Heights” is a wonderful collaboration between director Jon Chu, writers Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes, and the actors, including Anthony Ramos, Jimmy Smits and Olga Merediz, to name just a few. The sense of community created by them all is incredibly strong throughout the film and brings Miranda’s dream of making this community visible to fruition.
Director Chu has done a wonderful job of taking a Broadway production and enlarging it to fill the big screen in a way that pulls the viewer into the action. All the pieces come together seamlessly, and every character gets to shine.
Screenwriters Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes have tweaked the story of the original stage version, so if you’ve had the good fortune of seeing the stage performance, know that the film is not the same, which is not at all a bad thing.
Filmed entirely in Washington Heights, the cinematography is spectacular. The ability to film huge groups dancing in the streets, from all angles, while making the viewer feel a part of the action is to be commended. The choreography is a feat unto itself and a sight to behold. It holds its own with the best of the Busby Berkeley films and even the more recent “La La Land” opening sequence. The music and lyrics, of course, are pure Lin-Manuel Miranda, encompassing many genres and will have you hanging on every note and word.
While “In the Heights” is a great watch for one and all, if you love a film with unexpected references, this film just took on an added dimension. Since the film adaptation came after “Hamilton”, be on the lookout for bits and actors from that stage production, as well as many nods to other people and plays.
“In the Heights” is a rousing, get up and move 2 hours and 23 minutes of great music, dances, and inspiring themes. It is rated PG-13 for some language and suggestive references. It is currently in theaters and is streaming on the commercial free version of HBO Max through July 11th.
This is Libby Wadman with the Friday Film Review, reminding you that film is always fun and fascinating.