In The Heights ★★★★
Jon M. Chu
Starring Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Lin-Manuel Miranda
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s award-winning Broadway musical may be lesser known to those who sit outside the musical world, but most will have heard of Lin Manuel and his historical smash hit that followed. While you won’t find as many historical costumes here, what you will find is plenty of what made Hamilton what it is.
The story tells of Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), who runs a bodega in Washington Heights. He spends the run time pondering whether to up-sticks and move to the Dominican Republic or stay where he is. All the while Washington Heights is in a state of flux as the community struggles to stay together in challenging times.
What draws the audience in here is its freshness and passion. There is energy at every turn, with fun skits, catchy melodies and clever lyrics abound. The classic studio style musical numbers help differentiate this from the stage version, but Jon M. Chu’s direction also adds a contemporary edge. Early on, a big street dance is played out in the reflection of a shop window; a bold move but it was great and an early indication that In The Heights wants to set itself apart.
There are a lot of examples of these moments which amalgamate into a joyful movie. You can feel that joy in the cast as well, especially Anthony Ramos who delivers a stella performance and carries the film with ease. The only person who didn’t really need to be there was Lin-Manuel who generously provided himself with a solo number (of course he did, he loves it!).
As we explore 'The Heights' further, we start to see past the love stories and into the real issues that this movie hints at. They are no more than hints for the most part, but that highlights them even more; this is intelligent writing that treats the viewer intelligently, with the emotions packing a punch at just the right moments.
One to have in the collection to perk you up, this timely musical may not have the long-lasting effect that Hamilton has had, but it is nonetheless a refreshing addition to the Lin-Manuel canon.
In The Heights available in cinemas now