In the Heights (2021)



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Before Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote In the Heights for Broadway. I was fortunate enough to see it in 2009 or 2010 while it was touring the US. If you liked the music style of Hamilton you will enjoy In the Heights.


The film is set in the heavily Hispanic neighborhood of Washington Heights in Manhattan. While the stage performance was limited in the sets that it could use, those limitations are gone on the big screen. This is a proper adaptation that takes full advantage of all that a major film production can.


Anthony Ramos plays Usnavi, a Dominican bodega owner with aspirations to move back to the Dominican Republic. Melissa Barrera is Vanessa, an aspiring clothing designer that wants to move down the island and get out of the heights. Vanessa is also the romantic interest of Usnavi. These two are just one example of rapid gentrification of the neighborhood along with a pattern of young people leaving the neighborhood and taking the character with them.


I am not the child of recent immigrants. I grew up in a nearly all-white community of people that had been in the US for generations. I do not have a lingering sense of belonging to the community I left. This film brings all the family aspects of a community to the screen. The successes of one community member are a product of the community as a whole. The communal celebration of individual accomplishments is inspiring. This also puts a heavyweight on the shoulders of those that the community celebrates.


In the Heights is a positive and nice love story of community. Broadway performances feel intimate because of the limitations of the stage. Balancing this intimate nature while taking advantage of the ability to have a sweeping background that film provides takes a deft hand. This is a perfect example of how to take some from stage to screen. Please enjoy this film with your family or friends, I guarantee it will put a huge smile on all your faces.

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