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‘In the Heights’ is a Joyous Celebration of Culture and Community


Hey, Hollywooders! What’s Good in the ‘Wood?

I just got back from seeing In the Heights, one of the many new movie releases out now in movie theaters.

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I took a look at theaters near me to compare movie showtimes and settled on going to the 1:15 p.m. movie showtime at the Showcase Cinemas theater near me. The movie theater was practically empty; I didn’t have to wait to purchase the movie theater popcorn I was craving and my sister and I had an entire row of seats to ourselves. 

Directed by Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians, Jem and the Holograms), In the Heights is the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical of the same name. The movie takes audiences through the story of the Latinx community living in New York City’s Washington Heights. The characters in the movie struggle with challenges in the neighborhood and reaching their individual goals, before finding solutions within each of their dreams. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda does not disappoint

When Hamilton was released on Disney+ last summer, I fell in love with the music and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s outstanding ideas. Because of this, I was dying to see In the Heights and I certainly was not disappointed. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda created the concept and wrote the music for the original play, which premiered in 2005. In an interview with Jimmy Fallon, Lin-Manuel said that he started writing In the Heights when he was in college. He said, “I just kind of was writing what was missing. I wanted to write musicals starring Latinos, telling different stories. And here we are 20 years later.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda produced the film and even starred in a few scenes, singing the song “Piragua.”

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Just like Hamilton, In the Heights is character-driven, bringing viewers through the development of each person in the film. It also contains numbers that might even be catchier than those from Hamilton (if that’s possible). 

Lin-Manuel Miranda has outdone himself once again, giving audiences everything they imagine and more for the film. 

The cast is full of immense talent

While I didn’t recognize many of the actors in In The Heights I was beyond impressed with the cast of this film. Every number was full of life and kept me smiling (almost) throughout the whole movie. 

Anthony Ramos, who is most known for his roles of John Laurens and Philip Hamilton in the original Broadway cast of Hamilton, played the lead role of Usnavi. As the focal point of the film, he guided the audience with his retelling of the story.

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The movie also featured the lovable characters Abuela Claudia, played by Olga Merediz, and Benny, played by Corey Hawkins, who share the importance of preserving their community of Washington Heights throughout the film. 

The two standout roles for me were Nina, played by Leslie Grace, and Vanessa, played by Melissa Barrera. Both actresses were extremely talented and gave extraordinary performances in their singing and dancing. 

In the Heights contained numerous ensemble numbers that were absolutely stunning, but my favorite has to be “Carnaval Del Barrio.” In this seven-minute-long sequence, the members of the community come together in song after tragedy has struck. It shows the importance of having people by your side when life gets dark.

I also loved “When The Sun Goes Down,” a number that had characters Benny and Nina dancing on the side of a building. The film left me wanting to watch each musical performance over and over again. 

In the Heights shows the importance of dreaming

In the Heights begins with the main character Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) explaining what a sueñito (little dream) is to a group of children. Usnavi then goes on to tell the stories of the people in Washington Heights and their individual dreams. 

Throughout the film, the audience sees that dreams can bring about real change for individuals, as well as communities. Characters like Nina (Leslie Grace) show us how dreams can transform, while characters like Usnavi and Vanessa (Melissa Barrera) depict the struggle of chasing one’s dreams.

Abuela Claudia’s dreams and those passed down from her mom positively affect practically all of Washington Heights, bringing them together as a family with her as the matriarch. She reminds the characters and audience to have patience and faith when it comes to their dreams. Throughout the film, dreams take shape—not always as the character originally intended—and the neighborhood is better because of them. 

What others thought about In the Heights

Fans on Twitter sang the film’s praises after its release in theaters and on HBO Max

Patrick said that In the Heights is already on his list of the best movies of 2021. 

Roger said the movie had him singing, laughing, and crying. 

This fan said that the film exceeded all of her expectations. 

This Twitter user went so far as to say that In the Heights is one of the best movie musicals that has been released in years.

A.O. Scott of the New York Times wrote that the film is “an assertion of impatience and faith, a celebration of communal ties and individual gumption, a testimony to the power of art to turn struggles into the stuff of dreams.”

In the Heights is the perfect film for musical lovers or any fans of feel-good ensemble movies. It’s made me so excited for Broadway to reopen in September, but until then, I’ll be listening to the In the Heights soundtrack on repeat. 

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