So to start this review off with some honesty, I hated 90% of Hamilton, I literally cannot get into it, the reason I bring this up is because Lin-Manuel Miranda is the musical writer of In The Heights, one of my favorite musicals and one I enjoyed immensely when it was put to Broadway in 2007.
Musical films are a strange topic to handle because rather than using music to set a tone, express an emotion, or reflect the atmosphere of the scene or enviorment, the music is also required to be apart of the flow of the film rather than just working alongside it.
The music in a musical not only sets the pacing, tone, atmosphere, but also (in a good musical) carries the story, lays out the characters, fills the setting, defines motivations and character growth, and/or invokes/reflects the emotions of the characters.
You can see this in a film like La La Land (a film I really need to write about), wherein the music itself sets the pacing, you come to understand the characters and LA as a whole, and you see the journey of the characters mapped out throughout.
In The Heights, does an amazing job at this as well. You come to learn and love each character well, you learn their dreams, their struggles, their jobs. You learn about Washington Heights, a small corner of New York, who owns what store, and how everyone knows everyone there. The small Latino community is brimming with culture and diversity within itself spanning from Dominicans to Puerto Ricans, it’s a melting pot and you can feel the community they bring. It’s a family, even if they’re not related.
The music also needs to be good for a musical to work, and In The Heights hits the nail on that. The music hits every beat just right, the pacing and diverse range of music from operatic music, to salsa, to bachata, to rap. The music (in my opinion) is never dull, but there are a few standout songs to me, my favorites would be In The Heights sung by almost the whole cast, Breathe (feat. Rubén Blades & Doreen Montalvo) sung by Leslie Grace, Paciencia y Fe sung by Olga Merediz, Carnaval del Barrio again sung by most of the cast, and Champagne by Melissa Barrera and Anthony Ramos.
I genuinely love In The Heights, and it nails it on the head. Seeing the trailer for it had me cautiously optimistic as I felt it was more riding the trendy popularity of Hamilton and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s name, but the film was made with heart, and a lot of passion in pride in its core. Go watch this film if you can.
The film pulls you in and makes you understand if not feel like you’ve known these character’s your whole life. Abuela becomes your Abuela, you become just another citizen of Washington Heights, playing in the park, working on the corner, singing in the streets. It’s a beautiful, emotional, heart wrenching film. It comes from a very obvious sense of passion and pride.
I haven’t even touched on the set design, the cinematography, the acting, and the sheer beauty of this magical film. It’s a beautiful, well shot, superbly acted, designed film all to convey a colorful, bright, almost perfect story about the dreams of a small corner of New York called Washington Heights.