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IN THE HEIGHTS gets 8.5/10 The lovers, the dreamers, and me

Directed by Jon M. Chu

Starring Anthony Ramos, Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace, Olga Merediz, Jimmy Smits


With a pedigree like In The Heights has, this musical is either going to succeed spectacularly or disappoint in nightmarish proportions (I’m looking at you Cats, I’m looking at you). Based on the Tony award winning Broadway musical, by the Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, and directed by Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians), it’s hard not to be excited about this film.

Usnavi de la Vega (Anthony Ramos) sits at his bar on an idyllic tropical beach telling a group of children the story of his former neighbourhood, Washington Heights. As he recounts his hard work to escape from there, he falls in love again with the cast of characters that make up the largely Dominican neighbourhood in Upper Manhattan.

Simply put, In The Heights is a magically entertaining movie that places family, community, and culture at the front and centre. Starting from a design aesthetic closer to the real world than many musicals, it is able to set itself firmly in the world and look closely at the issues affecting the Latino community in the United States (especially highlighting the various changes to the DREAM act).

Then when it needs to, it can gently shift to a more stylised reality in its musical numbers, making them seem unique and effective in turn. It starts as a comparatively subtle shift (although some of the later sequences are more notable) and feels more like a magical undercurrent to the world, and an expression of internal desires, rather than a jarring break from reality. It’s an ingenious way to pay tribute to the past musicals that obviously inspired it, while at the same time keeping one foot in the real world, allowing the social issues that In The Heights examines to shine through.

In The Heights is pure unmitigated joy, but with a solid social message. Certainly one of the films of the year, and one that will become a classic for musical lovers.


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