This year’s Summer Blockbuster Musical “In The Heights,” created by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) and directed by Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians) was excellent! The project started as an Off-Broadway production that Miranda dreamed up in college at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. He wrote the screenplay for the musical stage play along with the lyrics for the songs, and starred as Usnavi.
Due to his age, he opted for young, up-and-coming stars to carry the banner in the film. The adapted screenplay for the film was written by Quiara Alegría Hudes. The film stars Anthony Ramos as Usnavi, Corey Hawkins as Benny, Leslie Grace as Nina Rosario, Melissa Barrera as Vanessa, Gregory Diaz IV as Sonny, Jimmy Smits as Kevin Rosario among others.
The acting performances are all excellent, but as can be expected from a musical, the songs and dancing throughout the film steal the show. I loved the use of music with the sounds of the barrio in Washington Heights to tell the story of America. Immigrants, some of which were undocumented came to New York in search of work and a better life. In Washington Heights, many immigrants came from islands in the Caribbean: Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica with nothing. In America they found a family and a home. They raised kids and worked hard to give their kids an opportunity for a better life.
The film depicts the numerous struggles that immigrants and first generation Americans face today. The transient nature of immigration status, the limited choices, the closed doors to the undocumented and their children are all real hardships that these people face everyday. But despite these challenges, the barrio sticks together, they lift each other up, they are a family and a community that is stronger together. When the power goes out, they are not powerless.
Besides the transcendent music and beautiful dance routines, another very strong aspect of the film is the storytelling. The lives of several members of the community young and old, their stories, their choices, and their triumphs against all odds are inspirational. The film was so uplifting and filled with hope at a time when so many people feel defeated and hopeless.
If you haven’t seen the film yet, due to concerns about going to your local theater, the film is now available to rent on DVD or Blu-Ray at Redbox. I would definitely recommend seeing it! The YouTube video embedded above contains the first 8 minutes of the movie to whet your appetite.