Review: In the Heights

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Title: In The Heights
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Jon M. Chu
Starring: Anthony Ramos, Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace
Runtime: 2 hrs 23 mins

What It Is: In Washington Heights Dominican immigrant Usnavi (Ramos) dreams of a return to the island that brought him “the best days of his life”. While he waits for his sueñito (dream) to come true he’s working the family bodega, and crushing on aspiring fashion designer and current salon gal Vanessa (Barrera). Meanwhile, Nina, the neighborhood’s best has returned home from her first semester at Stanford and the whole block is jumping because of it. The streets, they’re alive with music.

What We Think: This movie is both a breath of fresh air and a shock to the system. Summer is the perfect time to put this out. The music is as vibrant and colorful as the culture it resides in. There’s a real flair for everything here. Anthony Ramos is simply stellar as Usnavi. His vibrancy and life bring the whole film together. It’s Olga Merediz though that had my whole heart in the palm of her hand. Reminding me of my own dear abuelita every time she’s on-screen you feel her emotions, whatever they may be. One thing about the music in this is that you can completely tell that this is a Lin-Manuel Miranda musical. All of the hallmarks of this style are there, speaking musically. The hip-hop-inspired rapping (especially from Corey Hawkins on “Benny’s Dispatch”) absolutely smashed and is of course a hallmark of Miranda’s. As a man of Latinx descent there are characters, situations and people who remind me of those that I’ve love and lost throughout my life. We see a little of ourselves in Usnavi.

Our Grade: A+, This might be my favorite film of 2021. It’s a perfect summer bash. The scenes in the heat feel sticky and sweaty…as they should. This hits all the emotional spots it should and never feels forced or inauthentic. For everything it does cinematically it’s an even bigger deal to see my people represented. Though I myself am of Central American origin (they aren’t directly referenced) the ideals of Latinx cultures that are present are those that I’ve lived with from birth. This, to me has the quick fire flash of lightning and the power of thunder. A truly excellent piece that showcases what a musical used to be. Hint of Minelli clash with nods to the more contemporary Damian Chazelle. Chu shows his eyes been sharpened. That Crazy Rich Asians was simply the restart of what’s sure to prove a fruitful career going forward. See this immediately.

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