Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes bring their Broadway hit, In the heights, with resounding success on the big screen. His heartfelt testimony to New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood, its diverse residents, and vibrant culture is an absolute delight. The story follows a group of closely connected dreamers over several days in their beloved city block. They sing, dance and rap from bodegas around the corner through streets spouting hydrants. Director Jon M. Chu (Crazy rich Asians) captures the magic of the musical brilliantly without missing a bar or step.
In the heights has four main characters who grew up together under the loving care of Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz), a kind woman who had no children but kept a watchful eye on the youth of the block. Usnavi de la Vega (Anthony Ramos) lost his parents at an early age. He owns the bodega on the corner, but dreams of returning to his father’s dilapidated bar in the Dominican Republic. He’s in love with the beautiful Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), a nail salon worker and struggling fashion designer desperate to move downtown. Nina (Leslie Grace) was the smartest kid on the block. She was accepted at Stanford. Fulfills the hopes of her immigrant father Kevin (Jimmy Smits), the owner of a car service. Then we have Benny (Corey Hawkins), he works as a dispatcher for Kevin and has always been fascinated by Nina.
Most of the action takes place on three hot summer days that precede a city-wide power outage. Usnavi finally saved enough to buy back his father’s Caribbean beach bar. Nina returns home after a terrible first year at Stanford. Where she was exposed to constant discrimination as a poor Boricua girl. Vanessa has the money to get a studio apartment in the West Village but can’t pass the credit and income check. Benny senses that Nina is hiding something. Little does she know that her father used his business to pay for her expensive tuition fees. All worlds collide as the intense heat and harsh emotions result in a series of life changing events for the group.
In the heights is an outstanding Hamilton successor to Lin-Manuel Miranda, who produces as a piragua seller (flavored shaving rice) and plays a minor role. The musical numbers are well executed with elaborate, breathtaking choreographies. They range from intimate residential environments to multiple streets that the entire neighborhood participates in. It helps to have Anthony Ramos, who also starred in the theater production, at the center. He has the dramatic skill and musical talent to anchor any type of scene. The film never feels bloated as the plot always falls back on Usnavi’s perspective.
In the heights celebrates the cultural contributions of its immigrant community. Food, language, fashion, arts and dance all come from the multi-ethnic soup of Washington Heights. I lived there for eight years. This is the first mainstream film to show the neighborhood’s incredible diversity in a purely positive light. Hollywood rarely shows Manhattan above 96th Street. It’s a completely different ball game than what’s at stake Friends and His field repeated. In the heights will open eyes and hearts to a different experience that is also uniquely American.
My only criticism of this film is the length. It feels longer than the two hours and thirteen minutes of running time. The singing and dancing is great, but some scenes could have been cut off to improve the pace. This is particularly evident in a final act, which is protracted. In the heights is produced by 5000 Broadway Productions, Likely Story and Scott Sanders Productions. It will be in theaters and HBO Max simultaneously on June 10 from Warner Bros.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policies or position of News Gob.