Life & Culture

Film review: In The Heights

Linda Marric loves this upbeat musical movie


More than a decade after delighting crowds on and off Broadway with its up-tempo beats and uplifting message, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit show In The Heights is finally getting the big screen treatment in this sensational adaptation from director Jon M. Chu. In it, the award-winning creator of Hamilton is once again reunited with the Heights’s original co-writer Quiara Alegría Hudes with music from Miranda, Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman.

Anthony Ramos stars as Usnavi, a lowly bodega owner in the heart of Washington Heights, a neighbourhood in upmarket Manhattan populated by working class and immigrant communities. Usnavi works hard, saving every penny with the hope of one day returning to his native Dominican Republic.

Meanwhile, as more and more local businesses are priced out of the area due to rampant gentrification, Usnavi struggles to choose between staying put and winning the love of Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), or throwing caution to the wind and leaving New York for good.

With relentless salsa beats and an air of carnival running through it, In The Heights feels like instant party of a movie. Miranda mixes hip hop flavours with latin beats to give us a gorgeously layered and robustly performed love letter to Latin America and its people. The film also broaches the subject of “dreamers” — the more than 650,000 undocumented immigrants in the US — with a great deal of sympathy and hope.

While some have recently accused In The Heights of failing to represent Afro-Latin people, the film manages to have a broad spectrum of nationalities represented nevertheless. Legendary LA Law star Jimi Smits plays Kevin, a local businessman struggling to keep afloat, while singer-turned-actor Marc Anthony also stars as Usnavi’s uncle Gapo. Elsewhere, Lin-Manuel Miranda himself features in a brief cameo as street vendor Piragüero.

With its undeniable universal appeal, In The Heights is sure to strike a particular chord with anyone hailing from an immigrant background. Miranda and Chu have given us a film full of heart and hope, which is a genuinely thrilling spectacle from start to finish.


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