‘In the Heights’ Review: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Musical Is the Event of the Summer

In Jon M. Chu‘s In the Heights, the tunnel at the 191st stop on the 1 train is a metaphor for the space between life and death. Anyone who’s walked this tunnel—or certainly, who has walked any public transportation underground passage—will perceive instantly the energy, brilliance, and truthfulness of this scene. It’s not a scene that’s in the authentic Broadway present. It’s only one of some ways Chu completely captures the power of—and builds upon—Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s Tony-winning musical. The final product is more than just a movie. It’s greater than only a musical. It’s an occasion.

The lights go up on Washington Heights—a primarily Latino neighborhood in higher Manhattan—and we meet our lead character, Usnavi, performed by Hamilton‘s Anthony Ramos. Usnavi owns and runs a local bodega, and through his customers, we meet the neighborhood. There’s the piragua man promoting shaved ice (Miranda, in a pleasant faux beard). There’s Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz, who originated the function on Broadway), who unofficially adopted Usnavi and others in want of parental figures. There’s Kevin Rosario (Emmy-winner Jimmy Smits), a cab firm proprietor who spent his life financial savings to ship his daughter Nina (Leslie Grace) to Stanford. Then there are the women from the salon (Daphne Rubin-Vega, Stephanie Beatriz, and Dascha Polanco), Usnavi’s cousin Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV), Usnavi’s finest good friend Benny (Corey Hawkins), and at last, Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), the woman of Usnavi’s goals.

If your head is spinning from all these characters, concern not. Thanks to the authentic, whip-smart lyrics from Miranda, a transparent e-book from screenwriter Quiara Alegría Hudes (who additionally wrote the present’s Broadway e-book), and distinct performances from the forged, you’ll by no means end up misplaced. Each character has their very own sueñito—little dream, as Usnavi explains—that units them aside. Usnavi goals of returning to the Dominican Republic to reopen his father’s bar, Vanessa goals of leaving the Heights to turn out to be a designer downtown, Sonny goals of turning into a legally documented citizen, Kevin goals of his daughter getting the schooling he by no means had, whereas Nina goals of carving her personal path. And, of course, all of them dream of profitable the lottery.

In the Heights
Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

All of this comes from Miranda’s 2008 Broadway musical, with a couple of adjustments right here and there: a brand new character at the salon, the absence of Nina’s mom, a couple of adjustments in the tune order, and so forth. There are a couple of fashionable updates, too, like references to the Dreamer’s Act and the John Wick franchise. Every change works for the movie, and greater than that, Chu—finest recognized for the 2018 summer season hit Crazy Rich Asians—takes full benefit of the cinematic medium. The proven fact that it was shot on location in the actual Washington Heights is all the pieces. From the synchronized swimming with over 500 extras at Highbridge Pool to dancing in the avenue at the nook of Audobon and one hundred and seventy fifth, the authenticity of the neighborhood and crackling summer season warmth comes by way of with each body.

And the manufacturing of these musical numbers. Each one feels impossibly extra iconic than the one which got here earlier than it. Press-on nails clack out a beat on the salon desk and wigs come to life throughout “No Me Diga.” Vibrant sheets fly off of buildings and thru the air whereas Melissa Barrera belts out “It Won’t Be Long Now.” Ethereal dancers clad in white button-ups and Cuba fedoras create a visually hanging picture on the subway for Olga Merediz’s heartbreaking rendition of “Paciencia y Fe”—which could have been the standout quantity of the present if each quantity weren’t so dang good. Later, Corey Hawkins and Leslie Grace step off their fireplace escape and onto the aspect of a constructing for his or her dance quantity. All the stops have been pulled out for spectacle, and although it is going to stream on HBO Max the similar day it opens in theaters, you’ll see why Chu hopes audiences will select the large display. This is the best of what a film musical could be.

In the Heights
Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

As for the forged, there’s not a weak hyperlink. Ramos is the good alternative for Usnavi, with a candy face that pulls you in and a assured voice that’s even higher fitted to the storyteller’s raps than Miranda. Barrera, a Mexican actor beforehand recognized for her Starz drama Vida, slays on the dance ground and makes you fall in love together with her, too. And 16-year-old Gregory Diaz IV is a selected stand-out as Sonny for his laugh-out-loud ribbing of his older cousin, and for his spectacular verse in “96,000.” (It also needs to be famous that singer Marc Anthony will get a surprisingly sober cameo as Sonny’s dead-beat father.)

For these coming to In the Heights from Hamilton, there are few particular treats— a couple of bars of “You’ll Be Back” for the maintain music on the phone, a hysterical rivalry between the Piragua man and the Mister Softee driver. (I received’t spoil that one, however remember to keep till the very finish of the credit.) But In the Heights, which got here first, is firmly its personal factor. A film of this degree of high quality and scope this grand must earn a loyal following that rivals that of the founding fathers’ musical. I’ve a sense it is going to. In the Heights is the occasion of the summer season. No one will wish to miss out.

In the Heights opens in theaters—and can start streaming on HBO Max for 31 days—on June 11.

Watch In the Heights on HBO Max

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