IN THE HEIGHTS – Rated PG-13 – 2 hrs. 23 mins.
DIRECTOR: Jon M. Chu
WRITERS: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Quiara Alegria Hudes
STARRING: Anthony Ramos, Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace, Corey Hawkins, Olga Merediz, Jimmy Smits, Gregory Diaz IV, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Stephanie Beatriz, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Marc Anthony, and Noah Catala
22 years. That’s how long it took for this work of then Sophomore at Wesleyan University, Lin-Manual Miranda, to get to the big screen, and on HBO Max for us to experience this weekend. I mean, when I found out that the creator of the 11-time, Tony award winning production of HAMILTON, was joining forces with Crazy Rich Asian Director Jon M. Chu, I literally couldn’t wait for this film to be released.
And while we all waited, and waited, as the pandemic raged on, it was also absolutely astonishing to find out that this film, was a lot like “the little train that could”, as it trudged its way through years of reworking and restructuring, even from the storyline that hit on Broadway many moons ago, with Lin-Manuel Miranda himself playing Usnavi, to the film which in my estimation, is definitely destined to be one of the fabulous highlights of this Summer’s film releases!
I’ve been soooo excited to see this film from the time it was announced, as musicals have, and always will be, one of my favorite genres of film, that when the studio decided not to let us view it early, I was a little saddened to say the least. But, with my HBO subscription ready to go, I forged past the trials of my daily life this weekend, to carve out the 2 hrs. and 23 mins it takes to absorb this incredibly fun, and very entertaining film. And please, believe me when I tell you, I am so incredibly happy that I did make the time, as we venture into the life of Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), as he shares his life in the Latino neighborhood of Washington Heights, dreaming of a life, far, far away in his homeland of Puerto Rico, and the beaches he remembers from “the best years of his life”. But as Usnavi dreams of his homeland, he’s also dreaming of a life with the beautiful Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), who he pines for daily, much to the dismay of his cousin, and co-worker Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV). And as his Latina community keeps him, and his little convenience store afloat, his buddy Benny (Corey Hawkins) has also been pining away for his girl, and his boss Kevin’s (Jimmy Smits) daughter Nina (Leslie Grace), as he awaits her return from Stanford, which she ventured to, in an attempt to make something of herself…
And as Usnavi’s extended community comes fourth throughout the streets of Washington Heights daily to support him, and his dreams, it also seems that he and his friends, are never to far away from the comforts of “Home”, even if home it’s just hanging out with everyone’s adopted Abuela, Claudia (Olga Merediz), as she makes sure that the youngsters who frequent her very modest apartment, know that they are all a part of her extended family too!
And as the twists and turns of everyday life manage to keep the days in Washington Heights full of fun, and anguish for some too, it seems that finding your way in order to live out your dreams, and the life you were meant to lead, might closer than you think, if only you are willing to listen…
I give IN THE HEIGHTS a rating of MUST SEE ON THE BIG SCREEN or ON HBO MAX /4.5 Stars:
Who else but Miranda could write such an incredible tale and verse, in his signature rap styling, that manages to touch you throughout every moving scene on screen. Apparently, Jon M. Chu was the perfect choice to direct this masterpiece of film making as well, as there is not a scene that rolls by, that doesn’t have an exceptional performance taking place throughout. I’m sure that the perfect casting of this film, made Chu’s life a little easier too, as Ramos as the lead was the perfect choice, as his performance is exceptional to say the least, along with the choice of choosing multi-talented actresses Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace, and Olga Merediz too ~ who’s performance as the Abuela ~ will be etched in my heart, and my soul forever! I was also touched by the performances, singing and dancing of Corey Hawkins, and Gregory Diaz IV throughout this film as well, as their characters and performances added so much depth to the storyline throughout. And the addition of one of my favorite Latina actors of all time, Jimmy Smits, put a big smile on my face the whole way through this time around too, as even though he’s a little grayer than I remembered, he is just as charming as ever, playing a doting father. From it’s incredible views around the NYC, to its incredible music and choreography, to its touching storyline throughout every frame of this film too, IN THE HEIGHTS is one of the best musicals I have had the opportunity to view in quite a long time! You just have to catch IN THE HEIGHTS at a theater near you, or at home on HBO Max, as I’m positive that you will absolutely love every minute of it, just as much as I did! And don’t forget to have the box of Kleenex ready before you sit down too, because you are definitely going to need them, before this one is through…