A bodega owner with big dreams falls in love and embraces
his neighborhood a few days before he leaves for good.
In the Heights (2021)
Directed by Jon M. Chu
Written by Quiara Alegría Hudes
Starring Anthony Ramos, Melissa Barrera, Corey Hawkins,
Leslie Grace, Olga Merediz, Jimmy Smits, Gregory Diaz IV,
Daphne Rubin-Vega, Stephanie Beatriz, Lin-Manuel Miranda
Based on the stage play by Quiara Alegría Hudes
and Lin-Manuel Miranda
In the Heights is a movie I feel like I've been waiting two years to see. This is one of those surefire summer blockbusters that ended up getting postponed due to the pandemic. Now that we finally have it, In the Heights is the film we all needed right about now. It's a film that celebrates family, friendship, loyalty, community, and cultural heritage. It's a bright light that shines through the darkness a lot of families have been dealing with for quite some time. Thanks to HBO Max, it will have a further reach than it would with just the theaters, and I hope it brightens up someone else's day like it has mine.
Lin-Manuel Miranda has already proven his talents as a musical genius with Hamilton, but this was his first success. Hopefully this does well as a film, because I'd love to see Hamilton adapted to film next. We follow a colorful cast of characters who all live in the New York City neighborhood of Washington Heights. Our hero is Usnavi (Ramos), a bodega owner who dreams of moving to the Dominican Republic so he can reopen his father's old bar and be in charge of his own future. But the neighborhood is in his blood, and leaving is harder than he anticipated. Every character goes through a similar arc, with gorgeous musical numbers peppered throughout.
Musicals are all about the pageantry and the emotional connection, and In the Heights has it all. Maybe it's because I'm a Latino man myself, but the film made me proud of my own cultural heritage. Combine that with a great story, vibrant characters, and Miranda's signature hip-hop style, and you've got one of the year's most positive and optimistic films.