In The Heights Review
Before the success of Hamilton Lin-Manuel Miranda was awarded an Tony Award for In The Heights, the 2008 Broadway musical that was set in his own neighborhood. Although fans will recognize the beat and tempo of the hip-hop genre it's a lighter and more straightforward production than his more epic historical drama and is bursting with the same enthusiasm and passion for life. The characters don't try to transform their nations or be able to win battles however their strugglesto earn money, find love, or make a mark within the global community can be life-and-death to those involved.
There's also plenty of plot and very little that's unusual. Our protagonist, who is also the our narrator will be Anthony Ramos' Usnavi, an owner of a corner shop who is saving to move back in the Dominican Republic and reopen his father's former beach bar because his neighborhood is becoming more gentrified and the old-fashioned businesses are forced out. He's in love with Vanessa (Melissa Barrera) who is eager to move to the city and begin her own boutique for dresses. In the meantime, the dazzling Nina (Leslie Grace) is back from Stanford. She left as a shining girl, straight-A scholar and the hope of their family members and acquaintances. However, Nina is finding college more difficult than she expected and is back with a secret that is causing trouble with her father (Jimmy Smits) but also bringing Nina closer to her former and possibly her future love, Benny (Corey Hawkins).
Within this area is a large group of salon ladies as well as small cousins and loving grandmothers, as well as plot lines such as disastrous date nights the winning lottery ticket, and the fate of DREAMers (undocumented immigrants) under US law , and the possibility of a New York blackout during a heat wave. Screenwriter Quiara Alegria HUDES has edited the book (which she also composed) to eliminate a few of characters and songs but it still has the impression of a complete neighborhood full of real people doing real work. The characters are just bursting into song occasionally. But, having multiple moving parts means that, in the middle of the scene it is possible to become impatient waiting in waiting for plot lines to come together already. British viewers might be troubled by frequent slips into Spanish language given the relatively small Latinx populace here but the context generally clarifies the situation.
It's a large classic, soppy, traditional musical.
However, the pace never slows since Director Jon M. Chu makes each song distinct and gives the movie an enormous amount of energy. The camera flits around in the more tranquil scenes, and moves every few bars during the songs, but it never stays sitting still for more than a couple of seconds. He doesn't use the kind of frantic music video cutting that might be appealing to a less experienced filmmaker. A veteran of the two most successful installments from the Step Up franchise as well as Crazy Rich Asians the filmmaker knows how to capture dancing and when to concentrate on the emotion. And the cast is talented enough to not have to cut them up. Also, he employs clever framing to ensure that a dance routine appears in the windows of the bodega owned by Usnavi, rather than seeing it face-on. If Chu decides to incorporate some CG dancers the effect is excellent effect. A disco track between a group of male pals is partly animated, as their verbal squabbling becomes semi-physical. Large bolts of cloth are thrown over the buildings as designer Vanessa is unable to get her mark, and then an unidentified couple dances up the sides of a building while the sun sets over the river in a tender rendition of "When The Sun Goes Down'.
The cast is all solid and include everyone from the established Ramos who is a part of Hamilton's famous Broadway cast Straight Outta's Hawkins to the newcomers Barrera (at least, they're new to audiences of English) as well as Grace. You won't mind that the more established names take bit-parts, with Miranda in a third-tier role as Piragua Guy, a drinks-peddler, Marc Anthony in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it role as a deadbeat dad and Hamilton's Christopher Jackson in a fun cameo.
It's because of the consistent dedication of the ensemble that the emotional impact is so hard. For all the salsa and rap influences, and the uniqueness of its setting in the culture The characters are extremely proud of their roots and the diverse ethnic origins they have -it's a large traditional, soppy musical that is a tale of the close knit community of people who help each other out of their problems with a common sense of sassy optimism and a dazzling sense of rhythm to an incredible effect.