In The Heights [Grade: B+]

Director: Jon M. Chu

Story By: Quiara Algería Hudes & Lin-Manuel Miranda

Cast: Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace, Gregory Diaz IV, & Olga Merediz

* * *

The hype that was built with the early promotion of this film was hype well deserved. #InTheHeights is definitely a film that is the perfect introduction to the first summer after a summer during the height of a pandemic [especially for a city like Chicago that officially opened the same weekend that this film was released].  

* * *

Below are my grades for key components in #InTheHeights that I find to be key in any story/film/series—Theme, Plot, Pacing, and Character Arc/Development. 

Additionally, I have added an entertainment factor scale to help you determine whether or not the film is something you’d be interested in taking time out of your weekend, evening, or day to watch. The scale range consists of: Worth the Watch/$$$, Interesting Enough (if looking for something new to start), & Don’t Rush.

I have also added a few non-spoiling thoughts, wonderings, and comments as I watched the film to help give some rationale for my grades and entertainment scale.

* * *

Theme: A

Plot & Story: A-

Pacing: B

Character Arc/Development: B

General Entertainment Factor: Worth the $$$/Watch

Film Enthusiast Entertainment Factor: Worth the $$$/Watch

* * *

TAKEAWAYS:

1. Baby, listen… Anthony Ramos…. I loved his ass in the Netflix remake of #ShesGottaHaveIt, and mm mm mm… he’s such an oddly beautiful man. 😍😍😩

2. Was it just me, or did you find yourself in tears (or ready to be in tears) during Nina’s song “Breathe.” Whew! Leslie Grace did what she was supposed to do! 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👍🏾

3. Now maybe I had a different eye while watching the first 10-11 minutes of the film, but the first thing I felt was “Community.” The residents of Washington Heights dancing in the streets, the different residents who stop by the bodega, the visuals of the the residents in the streets of the neighborhood—all of it said “Community,” and this was carried through with every character’s story. Additionally, this was merged well with another theme starter of “Dreams/Aspirations.”👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👍🏾

4. Vanessa’s aspiration sequence with the fabric over the buildings was really beautiful!  👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👍🏾

5. Abuela’s song…. It was also beautifully set up and shot, and was another tearful moment. 😩🙌🏾🙌🏾

6. For the most part, the story is well adapted and executed—residents of a community in New York share struggles as well as individual dreams/aspirations while also enjoying and appreciating the familial vibes of The Heights. My only 3 issues are with Usnavi’s character development, real racial and socio-economic representation to elevate character conflicts, and the random placement of the “march/rally” in Act 3—it felt a little too sudden for the sake of giving Nina tension to her personal dream and decision. 🥴🤷🏾‍♂️

7. To piggyback off of points 1 and 6, I felt like I was missing something more to Usnavi’s character. By the end, it seemed that Usnavi was someone who was well loved, respected, and honored in Washington Heights. However, ALL of this was never fully developed. Yes, we do get to see how many in the community are constantly in and out of his bodega, but… I personally wanted to have a moment where Usnavi, the person and not the community resource, was treated with reverence—i.e. multiple Benny’s throughout the community. 🥴

8. The lighting and overall scene of Nina and Benny on the balcony was SO beautiful! 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾🙌🏾

9. Sonny got some bars on him! Go’n head, Sonny! 👏🏾👏🏾👍🏾

10. YEEEESSSSSS VALENTINA! 🙌🏾

11. YEESSSSS Dascha Polanco! I just love her in general!🙌🏾

12. OOOOO, and YEESSSSS Marc Anthony—his part was so short, but he did what he had to do. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

13. Another piggyback off of point 6, and with point 7, is with the racial representation. First, let’s shout out this full Latinx cast, music, food, just absolutely amazingness. HOWEVER…as a friend and I both said while watching, you really expect me to look at this light skinned, beautiful woman (Nina) who is ALSO the daughter to someone implicitly more financially secure than others in the community which ALSO implies having clothing/an aesthetic that more than likely fits (not to mention, we could see her and her aesthetic), and BELIEVE that she was at Stanford experiencing what she was experiencing?? Especially the situation she shared at the dinner… Everything about that moment said Nina should’ve been a darker skinned Latina—Benny and Nina’s complexions should’ve been swapped. Clearly there’s a such thing as #PrettyPrivilege that Nina definitely has. 🤦🏾‍♂️🤦🏾‍♂️👎🏾

14. I don’t know what my favorite song is… Lin-Manuel definitely killed Piragua, and No Me Diga was really hilarious and cute, 96K was SO fun and well choreographed and shot, Paciencia y Fe was such a surprise from Abuela, Carnaval del Barrio was another fun track and moment, and Champagne was such a cute banter-infused track. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾🙌🏾

15. Speaking of music, Usnavi’s final song was another tear jerker for me…especially with that final close up. 😩👍🏾👍🏾

16. Okay… Yes, the #Lewks that Vanessa constructed were cute…BUT, I don’t know if I was 100% on board with how that reveal was set up. I don’t think she needed a reveal…it should’ve already been something that was already known as part of her story.  🤷🏾‍♂️

17. I think the pacing overall was solid. I never had a moment where I felt things were lagging or too stagnant. But, to my point about Usnavi’s character, this is where pacing got in the away—not slowing down enough to be intentional about dropping small moments where his connection to the community was more than just the store—especially because during “Carnaval del Barrio” someone who wasn’t part of the small circle of friends Usnavi regularly interacted with screams, “There’s Usnavi!” But the way his character sort of disappears in the light of the other characters and their stories, I was like… “okay, and??” 🤷🏾‍♂️🤦🏾‍♂️

18. Another point to #6, is about the socio-economic representation—the lyrics mention “poor,” but I saw working class. #MakeItMakeSense. Especially Usnavi’s wardrobe. 🤦🏾‍♂️

19. Now that was a cute and clever location reveal, and it fit so well with the the theme started about dreams. 👍🏾👍🏾

20. Oh that club sequence and blackout moment was NOOOIIIIICE (in my Tiffany Haddish voice). If Uber and Lyft wasn’t  charging 50.00 to get to the theater here in Chicago, I would’ve loved to see that moment on the big screen. 😩👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

21. Can we take a moment to just love and celebrate the damn culture! Yeeessss! I want a Latin man, now. 😩🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾😍

22. That teal-ish dress Vanessa had on gave me Lambada: The Forbidden Dance. 😂🤷🏾‍♂️

23. The beginning music definitely gave Hamilton leftovers, though…👀🥴

* * *

Overall, #InTheHeights is Do The Right Thing-meets the culture celebration vibe of Coco-meets Disney. I definitely would’ve loved to ACTUALLY see what Anthony Ramos said in reference to the film’s diversity—“We have the lightest of the lightest and the darkest of the darkest”… … which is a lie. BUT, again, the film is definitely a must see to help everyone prepare for a #SummerRedo! It’s colorful, fun, celebratory, and stunning. 

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