‘In The Heights’ movie review: Glorious and irresistible

The movie based on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s eponymous musical is likeable and aspirational, offering a complete package, with song, dance, laughter, grief, love and longing

What a jolly film! Based on Quiara Alegría Hudes and Lin-Manuel Miranda eponymous musical, In the Heights with its foot-tapping songs, vibrant colours, and nimbly choreographed dances, is irresistible. Director Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians) has created a movie with something for everyone — whether it is respect for our parents’ sacrifices, following your dreams, the importance of being rooted, or singing on the street.

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The story is told by Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) to a bunch of children. Usnavi (there is a sweet story to his name) used to run a bodega in Washington Heights. He introduces the characters — his cousin Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV) who works with him, Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), who he has a crush on, smart Nina (Leslie Grace) and the matriarch, “Abuela” Claudia (Olga Merediz). Nina’s father, Kevin Rosario (Jimmy Smits), runs a taxi company where Benny (Corey Hawkins) works. Benny and Nina dated before Nina went away to Stanford. Vanessa works at Daniela’s (Daphne Rubin-Vega) beauty salon but dreams of moving to an apartment downtown and becoming a fashion designer.

In the Heights

  • Director: Jon M. Chu
  • Cast: Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Olga Merediz, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Gregory Diaz IV, Jimmy Smits
  • Storyline: A slice of life in the Latino-dominated Washington Heights of Manhattan
  • Duration: 143 minutes

Usnavi dreams of returning home to the Dominican Republic and reviving his father’s business. Matters come to a head, when there is a blackout during the hottest time of the year. Daniela plans to move out to the Bronx as she cannot afford Manhattan rents. Nina drops out of Stanford as she faces racism and also cannot pay the tuition.

While largely following the plot of the musical, the movie makes some changes including keeping Usnavi and Vanessa at the centre instead of Nina and Benny. The song and dances are energetic and eye-catching. The weightlessness of ‘When the Sun Goes Down’ is breath-taking while you cannot help but groove to ‘Carnaval del Barrio.’ At a time when Indian films seem to have given up on all those lavishly choreographed songs, In the Heights steps in to fill the vacuum.

The cast is easy on the eye. Miranda plays the piragüero, who sells the shaved ice desserts from a brightly coloured cart that reminds one of the ice-candy man from summer vacations (no, not Aamir Khan). By excluding Afro-Latino actors in the cast, the makers faced accusations of colourism for which Miranda apologised on social media.

In the Heights is likeable and aspirational, offering a complete package, with song, dance, laughter, grief, love and longing.

In The Heights is currently streaming on BookMyShow stream

 

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