In The Heights Feature Review The Nerdy Basement

In the Heights Review: A Gorgeous Trip through Washington Heights

In The Heights captivates With its powerful cast, catchy songs, gorgeous visuals, and highlight of Latino culture.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musicals are some of the most notable projects to come out of Broadway in recent years, and recent efforts to share them have had great success. The 2020 release of the Hamilton stage recording on Disney+ was widely praised and nominated for various awards, and now that streak of greatness continues with the 2021 film adaptation of Miranda’s first musical, In the Heights, released on June 10 in theaters and on HBO Max.

The Latinx-focused musical had a lot of expectations to meet when making its transition to the big screen, but Miranda and director Jon M. Chu (Step Up 2: The Streets, Crazy Rich Asians) manage to create a story that is simultaneously beautiful to look at and engaging to follow, creating a perfect way to welcome audiences back to theaters for the summer.

In the Heigts Review The Nerdy Basement
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The film focuses on several characters going about their lives in the New York City neighborhood of Washington Heights. The main character is Usnavi De La Vega, played by Anthony Ramos (Hamilton, A Star is Born), a bodega owner saving up to start life over in the Dominican Republic. Meanwhile, Nina Rosario, played by Leslie Grace, a once-strifeful student, has now returned to the Heights unsure about her future.

While Vanessa Morales, played by Melissa Barrera (Vida, Tanto Amor) tries to move out of the Heights and become a successful fashion designer. These three characters and their dreams mesh with the many others present in Washington Heights, and through the span of a few days, their lives will change as they realize how important dreams can be to a person and how important it is to protect them all you can.

In the Heights Review George Washing Bridge The Nerdy Basement
(L-r) COREY HAWKINS as Benny and LESLIE GRACE as Nina in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “IN THE HEIGHTS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Macall Polay

In concept, being in the lead cast here feels nigh-impossible; one must be a complete triple-threat, being able to sing, dance, and act, much like one would see on Broadway. Luckily, everyone the movie focuses on does a great job both in and out of their songs. Anthony Ramos’s charm immediately comes through as he takes charge of Usnavi, being perfectly commanding or awkward depending on what the story needs from him.

Moreover, the supporting cast is filled with highlights, including Daphne Rubin-Vega (Rent, Smash) as nail technician Daniela; Rubin-Vega steals the show whenever she is on screen with her boisterous presence and powerful voice, making her one of the more underrated parts of the movie. Overall though, the cast is strong, which goes plenty well in a film so character-centric,

In The Heights
(L-r) MELISSA BARRERA as Vanessa, STEPHANIE BEATRIZ as Carla, LESLIE GRACE as Nina Rosario, DASCHA POLANCO as Cuca and DAPHNE RUBIN-VEGA as Daniela in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “IN THE HEIGHTS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Macall Polay

The songs are just as charming now as they were back in the original Broadway cast recording, and they are accompanied by beautiful visuals, both natural and artificial. Every location in Washington Heights that the movie filmed in feels unique to see and yet welcoming, all the same, showing how beautiful the neighborhood really is.

Moreover, whenever the film does use unique visuals, they always feel right with the moments they are paired with, acting as an extension of the characters’ dreams while making them more visually appealing. There are plenty of moments that stick out to me now, days after watching the film, and I cannot wait to rewatch the film and see those moments again.

Hands down the most important part of In the Heights, however, is its representation of LatinX culture. With a film taking place in Washington Heights, a part of NYC that is heavily populated by Latinos, the pressure was on to make sure that the film portrayed its setting and people with respect. Personally, as a Latino, I believed they did a spectacular job.

Although there was a lack of representation for Afro-Latinos, something that should be criticized, it was incredibly heartwarming seeing people that looked like me speak the language my family speak, see experiences that I could relate to, eat foods that I eat on a normal basis. There was a lot that reminded me of home, and I felt like I was not alone in my life moments, which is something that was nice to finally have for once in a film.

In the Heights Review Usnavi The Nerdy Basement
(Left Center-Right Center) ANTHONY RAMOS as Usnavi and MELISSA BARRERA as Vanessa in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “IN THE HEIGHTS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Macall Polay

On top of everything, In the Heights has an important, if conventional, message about the importance of dreams. They are what keeps us going in times of darkness and celebrate in times of hope, and the film did a spectacular job adding weight to that theme throughout its runtime. It may not be the most original dream, but it is a necessary one given everything the world has gone through this past year. The world needs more hope and more dreams, and this film was a great reminder of that.

In the Heights is an incredible film that stands on its own as a film and as a way to welcome people back to cinemas. With its powerful cast, catchy songs, and gorgeous visuals, the film has struck a gold mine of culture that plenty of people should see as soon as possible. Washington Heights is a beautiful place when captured through the lenses of Chu and Miranda, and the tale they spin is one that deserves to be seen by all, whether on the big or small screen. It is a great way to kick off the summer film season and easily stands as one of the best films of 2021 thus far.

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