in the heights


director: jon m. chu (crazy rich asians)

starring: anthony ramos, melissa barrera, corey hawkins and jimmy smits


REVIEWER: lyall carter

A film adaptation of the Broadway musical in which Usnavi, a sympathetic New York bodega owner, saves every penny every day as he imagines and sings about a better life.

I’ve always loved musicals. Whether on the stage or screen there is nothing quite like the wonder and despair of the human condition expressed through the colour filled musical pageantry with all of its belt it out choruses that we know and love. From Lin - Manuel Miranda the creator of the smash hit musical Hamilton, comes his new musical In the Heights. A raucous, top tapping and tear jerking joy filled ode to the beauty that can be found in humanity, In the Heights is not only one of the best films of the year but a sure fire classic. 


Lights up on Washington Heights...The scent of a cafecito caliente hangs in the air just outside of the 181st Street subway stop, where a kaleidoscope of dreams rallies this vibrant and tight-knit community. At the intersection of it all is the likeable, magnetic bodega owner Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), who saves every penny from his daily grind as he hopes, imagines and sings about a better life.


In the Heights has everything that lovers of musicals from the classics of the genre to modern day masterpieces will adore. There are many great numbers, passionately declared as well as the quieter, heart pulling songs that will draw tears. It’s story has a number of narrative threads that are wonderfully developed through great characterisation and the vocal and acting abilities of the stars that portray those characters. 


One of the many things that the filmmakers do so well is that as well as the hilarious, joyous and heartfelt moments this neighbourhood has a familiar, lived in feel as well as us feeling as though we know these characters so well. That, in itself, is brilliant filmmaking. 


But In the Heights is far more than just another musical. It’s a celebration of cultural differences, of people and their way of life that we barely see on screen. And it’s in no way tokenistic, it just is. That’s it. And its beautifully immersive, wholly representative and completely human. 


And while In the Heights is an ensemble piece it’s the trio of Anthony Ramos, Melissa Barrera and Corey Hawkins that shine the brightest with their impeccable vocal skills and portrayals of the different and uniques aspects of the obstacles someone with a dream has to face and conquer.


A raucous, top tapping and tear jerking joy filled ode to the beauty that can be found in humanity, In the Heights is not only one of the best films of the year but a sure fire classic.


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