Friday, June 11, 2021

In the Heights (2021)



Movie Name/Year: In the Heights (2021)
Genre: Drama, Musical
Length: 143 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: Warner Bros., 5000 Broadway Productions, Likely Story, Scott Sanders Productions, NOS Audiovisuais, Warner Bros. Pictures Germany, Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros. Singapore, Flixzilla,
HBO Max
Director: Jon M. Chu
Writer:  Quiara Alegría Hudes, Lin-Manuel Miranda
Actors: Anthony Ramos, Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace, Corey Hawkins, Olga Merediz, Jimmy Smits, Gregory Diaz IV, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Stephanie Beatriz, Noah Catala, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mateo Gómez, Marc Anthony, Analia Gomez
 
Blurb from IMDb: A film version 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.
 

Selina’s Point of View:
I have a ton to say and I honestly have no idea where to start. I have opinions about the content, the politics, the creative aspect, the translation to reality… I was incredibly affected by In the Heights.
 
I guess I’ll start with where I made a mistake.
 
I initially thought the film involved Brooklyn Heights – but it’s actually Washington Heights, which is in Manhattan. Even with that difference, though, there were so many similarities to the areas I belonged to in Brooklyn.
 
There’s a soul to neighborhoods like the one in In the Heights. Sometimes it’s not visible to outsiders, but it’s there. No bodega is just a corner store. Every one of them is different – as if it were its own individual. You could live closest to the one on Utica Avenue, but walk a little further because 18th has the best coffee. There’s always a neighborhood mom, or grandma, that looks after all the kids on the block. Hell, my ‘grandma’ even dressed identically to the abuela in this film.
 
During In the Heights there’s a moment where everything stands still and one of the characters seeks to just listen to her block. When I closed my eyes, it sounded so real.
 
I have never seen any movie capture the feel of the neighborhoods in NYC better than this one did.
 
If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you’ll know how much I dislike the hipsters taking over NY neighborhoods. I’ve gone into how I feel they are just bleaching away the character of those places. If you want to truly understand what I’ve been saying – this is what you need to watch.
 
The characters of In the Heights spend a lot of their time talking about how they’re losing their block. How the people who built the soul of their area are being priced out. That’s ridiculously accurate. Visiting home now feels like I’m walking into a new place, one that’s been sapped of so much of what made it special. The mom-and-pop shops. The small restaurants. And, of course, the bodegas – even though most of them come equipped with my worst allergy (cats).
 
By the time the flick ended, I was so homesick. I’ve been homesick for a while, but I could never figure out why – and this piece of cinema explained it to me. The little town I moved to has no soul. I moved here so my daughter could live a safer life, but I will always wonder if I robbed her of the variety of cultures she could have absorbed in Brooklyn.
 

We see ourselves in the best works of art. This is just the most personal place that In the Heights hit me.
 
As deep as that meaning went, there were more general aspects that would affect many others. It went into DACA and dreamers. It gave a front row seat to what it’s like to be an immigrant, or even just darker than white, in America.
 
There are going to be people who don’t appreciate that message. Those are the people I think need to pay the most attention.
 
When I placed In the Heights in the #1 spot of my Top 20 movies to look out for in June, I mentioned my concern that people would undoubtedly compare it to Hamilton (2020). Following up a film like that is no joke.
 
I worried that even if this one was an amazing film, it still might not live up to Hamilton – which could cause a lot of people to look down on it.
 
I don’t think that’s an issue anymore.
 
In the Heights was insanely good. It was a two-and-a-half-hour movie that I wound up hyper-focusing on so much that I forgot to take a drink during it. My coffee went completely ignored until the credits.
 
I do believe that Hamilton’s soundtrack is better, but that doesn’t mean the music in this film was bad. In the Heights was almost the same quality, just more relatable.
 
Lin-Manuel Miranda (Mary Poppins Returns, His Dark Materials, DuckTales), Quiara Alegría Hudes (Vivo, My America), and Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians, Somewhere, Now You See Me 2) are geniuses. There’s nothing else to say about them. Anthony Ramos (Honest Thief, Trolls World Tour, Elena of Avalor) was every bit as amazing as I knew he would be, but he didn’t overshadow anyone. The actors who worked along-side him – regardless of age or gender – were all just as good.
 
If you have the chance to see In the Heights, I cannot recommend it enough.
 

Cat’s Point of View:
I am absolutely loving the recent resurgence of musicals in pop culture. We’ve seen a number of them adapted from movies to live-action TV specials in recent years. There have even been several new musical movies. Though, perhaps the most impactful by far was Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. In the Heights was Miranda’s Broadway production that came about a decade before the American Revolutionary War mega-hit.
 
Broadway to film adaptations will always hold a special place in my heart. My inner music-geek does a happy dance every time a new one comes out – except for Cats (2019). I tried watching that and I couldn’t get past the strangeness of the CGI. It was so weird. I digress.
 
I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to afford to go to a real Broadway production in person. I’ve seen a few musicals in off-Broadway settings. They were magical experiences that I will never forget. Hamilton was filmed so that it felt like a trip to the theater. In the Heights, however, was a bit different.
 

In the Heights is a bit of a hybrid between the Broadway musical and a traditional movie. There were a few straight dialogue moments, and most of everything else was delivered in song and dance. The difference here was that the setting takes place on the actual streets of New York rather than a stage, and I loved it. It was wonderful to see that the neighborhood became almost a character of its own in the narrative.
 
Aside from the amazing music and killer dance moves, the story was touching and full of vivacious Latina flavor. I laughed and cried and sang along. I wanted to dance (but knew better than to attempt it). I could relate to the characters, even though I don’t share their ethnicity. I felt an empathetic appreciation for what they were going through. The cast absolutely killed it. Their wins and heartbreaks were mine for almost two-and-a-half-hours. It went by in a flash. Though, the ending left me fulfilled, and while wanting more; still well satisfied with the experience.
 
Catch this at your local theater if you safely can do so. In the Heights is a must-see, and I would recommend it a thousand times over.
 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 97%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 94%
Metascore – 85/100 
Metacritic User Score – 7.9/10
IMDB Score – 7.7/10
 
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating5/5
 
P.S. After credits scene.
 
Movie Trailer:

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