The fact that Lin-Manuel Miranda, Chu and Quiara Alegría Hudes’ In the heights doesn’t exceed the box office numbers says a lot about the times we live in. This joyful, connected and well done tribute to family, community and life is a Valentine of hope. Well received by critics, this film does not mix well at the box office, nor for that matter in the number of those broadcast on HBO Max. Part of it may be that Washington Heights is seen as more criminal than when the show was first written. Or maybe part of it has to do with the black / white divide that has largely ignored the Latino community. Or maybe it’s the border crises our government is ignoring leaving a horrific reality? The loss of culture, identity, community, gentrification and rights of undocumented migrants has never been more threatened than today. The colorful version of Jon M Chu is a tribute to all of this and more.
It’s the story of a disappearing block, tells Usnavi (the charismatic and adorable Anthony Ramos), a bodega who dreams of following his father’s dream and returning to the Dominican Republic to buy a bar that once belonged to his. father. He loves Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), an aspiring fashion designer, who longs to leave the neighborhood, but feels trapped by her job and Usnavi’s undocumented cousin, Sonny (breakout star Gregory Diaz IV) ,
Her best friend Benny (Corey Hawkins) longs for Nina, (Leslie Grace) the first in her family to go to college. Her father (Jimmy Smits) placed all of his hopes and dreams on her. He sells his business to people who are gentrifying the neighborhood.
Daniela (the fabulous Daphne Rubin-Vega) has been forced to move her beauty salon to the Bronx due to rising costs. And then there is Claudia (the warm Olga Merediz), the “Abuela” of the neighborhood. She keeps this neighborhood together and it was during her death that Washington Heights looked for a new leader, someone to keep this community alive and unforgettable.
Musical numbers choreographed by spectacular Christopher Scott, the Emmy-nominated choreographer best known for his work on “So You Think You Can Dance”. These acts are spectacular, especially the club scene.
In the heights and Olga Merediz were among 13 Tony Award nominations. The show won the award for best musical, score, orchestration and choreography for Andy Blankenbuehler.
In the heights followed a countdown to a blackout where people chant about being “helpless”. In all fairness, the only helpless thing about this movie was Lin-Manuel Miranda’s apology. When you see this movie, that apology or this review doesn’t make any sense. It’s diversity, made with love with a cast that exudes chemistry and talent.
Director: Jon M Chu. With: Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Olga Merediz, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Gregory Diaz IV, Jimmy Smits. 143 minutes