Usnavi lives in Washington Heights in New York owning a bodega, constantly saving to get himself a better life back in his native the Dominican Republic. In the Heights shows how close the neighbourhood had been, but everything looked to be falling apart as everyone seems to want to get out.
In the Heights is the film adaptation of the 2008 Broadway Tony award winning show, which has been a very long time coming. From taking a rather long time to be filmed and then the release pushed back over a year due to Covid, I can confirm it has been more than worth the wait. This is exactly how amazing a film version of a stage musical should be, epic.
Usnavi is our central character and we follow his dream of returning to the beaches of the Dominican Republic, caring for his Cuban neighbour Claudia who he refers to as Abuela (Grandma) as she had pretty much raised him especially after his parents passed away. She is pretty much the Abuela for the whole neighbourhood. Sonny is Usnavi’s young cousin who works in the bodega with him. Benny works for Kevin Rosario and is very much in love with his daughter Nina, who is about to return from college. Vanessa works alongside Daniela and Carla in the local beauty parlour but dreams of moving downtown to pursue a career in fashion.
We are given many social issues thrown into the film and each character has a dream but not completely sure how to make it become a reality. This is all mashed together within the story with the musical numbers complimenting everything and giving visually stunning moments. Being set in NYC certainly made for a lovely easy transition from stage to screen, allowing the movement between places very smooth. Then allowing for the musical numbers to be epic with some truly incredible choreography with an incredible number of dancers.
I was lucky enough to see the show on Broadway the night before it won the Tony Award for Best New Musical (and also attend the awards) and before that I didn’t really know much about the show. It was like nothing I had ever seen before, the music style is very different to anything else we have in musical styles. I do love that some of the lyrics had to be updated for this film version though, as that’s something that is done in some musicals anyway to keep them current. The running time is 2 hours and 23 minutes and I did not feel that at all, I enjoyed every single second and thought it flowed in the best possible way.
The casting was truly perfect for the acting and singing, everything coming together so nicely. Anthony Ramos is outstanding in the leading role and is a truly talented performer. Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera and Gregory Diaz IV all impressed me so much with their performances as well in more of the supporting roles. Olga Merediz reprising her role from the stage show which she as Tony nominated (and continued the role on different tours) surely was the only choice as Abuela, she was utterly outstanding. Daphne Rubin-Vega absolutely nailed ‘No Me Diga’ which was always one of my favourite songs from the show. Lin-Manuel Miranda the utter genius behind this show was in as Piraguero and it was also great that Chris Jackson an original cast member and actor who has been in all Miranda’s shows have a small role as well, something that fans of the show will certainly appreciate.
The range of emotions I went through from start to finish was pretty much everything, it made me smile and laugh with some of the small moments. Something I was not expecting considering I knew the story and what was going to happen was how much a scene made me cry, I guess that shows just how perfect they made that and how much you care about the characters. It was done in a heartbreaking yet lovely way that it completely broke me, tears streaming down my face.
Obviously I love and adore musicals on stage and in film form, this one is certainly top level and for me a five star film. It captures the magic of the original show so effortlessly and I truly hope that people love it as much as I did, I already cannot wait to go and see it again when it is on general release. Quite frankly one of the best Cineworld Unlimited previews we have ever had!