“In the Heights”: A Review


Ashley Hopkins, Staff Writer |

I’ll say this: I’m not a huge fan of musicals. I feel like they can be cringy and annoying, and I find myself not being able to sit through until the end. “In the Heights” might have just changed my mind.

“In the Heights” is a new movie that is based on the Broadway musical. The story takes place in Washington Heights, New York, and focuses on the people in the tight-knit neighborhood; more specifically, the protagonist, Usnavi (Anthony Ramos). Usnavi is a bodega owner who sings of his dreams of one day returning to the Dominican Republic. Additionally, Usnavi has a long-time crush on Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), and the audience is able to cheer him on in his quest for love.

The movie places emphasis on the importance of family, community, and dreams. All of the characters are working-class people who work tirelessly to make ends meet. While the characters may have dreams of leaving the Heights, they find themselves not being able to cut the cord. In the end, they realize that they have everything they want right where they are.

Every viewer can see at least a little bit of themselves in a character. Nina (Leslie Grace) is a college student who struggles with making her family proud but is not happy at college and wants to drop out. The actors overall were great. They were believable in their roles and felt real. There wasn’t one character that was unlikeable or an actor that was boring to watch. By the end of the movie, I was attached to the characters and felt like I knew them.

The cinematography is phenomenal. The shots are vibrant and lively, and they capture the energy and culture of Washington Heights. The film highlights places like the salon where Vanessa works, the bodega, and the pool as staple places for people to gather and be with one another and uses those settings in a dynamic way in musical numbers. Being a musical, the movie was filled with tons of catchy rap and hip-hop inspired songs. The most pleasing aspect to look at was the dancing portions of the movie. This musical had a lot of flash-mob style numbers, which not only left viewers in awe but also emphasized that theme of community.

Like mentioned earlier, family and community are huge themes of the film. Usnavi’s abuela is not actually related to him but watched over him and other kids on the block, taking on that grandmother role. The characters lean on one another for support, and everybody knows everybody. It was very heartwarming and comforting to see that dynamic in the movie.

I’m not surprised that “In the Heights” earned such great reviews, and that some songs from the soundtrack blew up on TikTok. With its characters, music, dance routines, and plot, it keeps your attention throughout the whole movie. Without giving anything away, the end of the movie was perfect– definitely a happy ending, but definitely not expected, either. Even if you’re not a fan of musicals, I would give this one a shot!

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