In the Heights is the movie adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2008 musical of the same name. If his name sounds familiar it’s because he also wrote and starred in Hamilton, the musical that took the world by storm last year.
This is very different from Hamilton. If Hamilton is a historical epic about a man who helped to change the world, this is a movie for the rest of us, just trying to change our own little corner of the world for the better.
The plot revolves around a small group of characters living in Washington Heights, a working-class neighbourhood in New York City. The characters are all from immigrant backgrounds and are struggling to make it in a world where their neighbourhood, and America, is changing before their eyes.
The main character is Usnavi, the owner of the local corner shop who dreams of going back to his native Dominican Republic to reopen his father’s old bar on the beach. Alongside him are Vanessa, who dreams of moving to a new neighbourhood to become a fashion designer, Nina, the girl who is returning home after her first semester at a fancy college, and Benny, the local taxi dispatcher and the apple of Nina’s eye. The movie deals with the struggles, triumphs, dreams and fears of all these characters and weaves them all together, with each character’s stories intertwining, usually in the form of a catchy song.
Of course, this is a musical and it would be nothing without some amazing songs and dance routines which you’ll be glad to know are plentiful. If you’ve seen Hamilton you’ll immediately recognize Miranda’s trademark sing-song/rap style throughout the film which works perfectly when tinged with the Latin Salsa style of the characters’ backgrounds. Bonus point for anyone who spots the old school hip hop references sprinkled throughout the songs.
Maybe it was fate that I watched the film on one of the hottest days of the year, but the filmmakers have done a great job of projecting the intensity of a long hot summer on the screen.
The film does deal with some serious subjects but that doesn’t stop it from being a feel-good film that leaves you walking out of the cinema with a big cheesy grin on your face. I can’t recommend it enough!