Film Review – In The Heights

In The Heights (M)

Directed by: Jon M. Chu

Starring: Anthony Ramos, Leslie Grace, Jimmy Smits

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Based on the hit Broadway show, In The Heights explores the lives of several Washington Heights residents who are trying to find their place in the world.

As gentrification threatens to change the character of Washington Heights forever, Bodega owner Usnavi (Anthony Raoms) prepares to leave to chase his dream of reviving his late father’s bar in the Dominican Republic.

Meanwhile, rising rent forces Daniela (Daphne Ruin-Vega) to relocate her salon to the Bronx, brainy Nina Rosario (Leslie Grace) is burdened with having to tell her hard working Dad Kevin (JImmy Smits) she has dropped out of Stanford University and Usnavi’s love interest, the talented fashion designer Vanessa (Melissa Berrera) faces discrimination when applying for her own apartment.

Their lives, and others, intertwine in the lead up to a power blackout that results in certain consequences and revelations.

This phenomenal production so beautifully captures a culturally rich pocket of Manhattan Island with so many loveable characters that even at 2 hours and 23 minutes, you cannot help but want more. It is so rare for a film to capture a sense of community so perfectly and eloquently.

It is a timely story, one that is far overdue on cinema screens, about those who work hard, contribute to an economy and a country and yet go unthanked, unacknowledged, unrecognised and unsupported. They have dreams and ambitions too, that are met with so many road blocks put in place by an outdated system.

And yet these are not presented as sob stories, nor are they portrayed as helpless victims in this narrative.

The positive representation of this nuanced community is a gift – there are no shady drug deals for dramatic effect and not a single gun or weapon to dial up tension. This is about as real as modern characters get in a musical production filled with eye popping sequences.

Those sequences are what make this cinematic – the aerial shots of synchronized choreography in a pool is dazzling, as is another sequence inspired by the golden era of musicals, in which two lovebirds dance on the side of an apartment , in and around the fire escapes, with gorgeous scenery behind them.

These moments are pure cinema magic.

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