Whether it’s the love you feel for your family, your country, your community, or a combination of all three, you’ll understand the heart that went into this film. Ignore the mediocre reviews and go see this beauty, because that’s what it is, truly beautiful.
While a transition from stage to screen can produce some challenges, there’s no evidence of any hiccups. In fact, the camera work blends the lythe, sensuous and rhythmic movements of the dancing seamlessly with the energy and movement of the city. Jon M. Chu’s cinematic chops are on full display in this film, but fortunately for us, so is his love of story and the heart that beats inside it. Much like his first hit “Crazy Rich Asians”, the music features prominently. But in contrast, in “In the Heights”, the music is the story. Lyricist/Composer, Lin Manuel Miranda synchronizes the music and story so much so that the awkward transitions from talking to singing disappear. There are no, “And now we sing” moments.
Of course, there is a love story, two actually, and a coming of age subplot, a death, and resurrection of a father-daughter relationship, and all of these fill the story with life. This is a story with an age-old theme: Should I stay or should I go? More specifically, does one have to leave one’s home to find success? Must the hero’s journey be for everyone? At what point are we happy where we are, with ourselves and with those around us? The answers are different for everyone, and that’s what makes life interesting. Some of the characters leave because they have been priced out of the area. Some leave because they must in order to achieve their dreams, much like their parents or grandparents did when they came to New York. Some want to return to their homeland, to the dream of what once was. And still, others decide to stay, to fight, to survive, to flourish. It’s an American story for our time.
I’d be remiss if I did not mention and indeed, praise the choreography. Christopher Scott did not disappoint in the large dance numbers and the creative use of movement in small ways. The large dance numbers impress us with their style, exuberance, and most importantly, their fun. Whether it’s the street, the nightclub or the pool scene which harkens back to MGM’s synchronized swimming numbers, you’ll be smiling.
In fact, probably the most important takeaway from this film is that not only are musicals back, movies are back, and perhaps even better than before. “In the Heights” puts the life back in life. So long Corona! We’re going to the movies!