Movie Review: In the Heights

I remember back when I first heard about In the Heights when it was on Broadway. It won 4 Tony’s back in 2008, and it was nominated for 9 others. I . . . didn’t get it. At all. I remember watching the Tony’s and just wondering why in the world people were making a big deal out of a hip-hop musical. It felt very non-musically to me.

A lot’s happened over the next 13 years, of course. I’ve changed. Music tastes have changed. Hamilton happened. And so the musical that I was totally uninterested in back in 2008 became the movie adaptation that I really wanted to see in 2021. I would have seen it in the theaters, but I’ve got HBO Max, and it’s right there to watch on that service, so it was an easy decision to just watch it at home last night with Denisa and Daniela.

We loved it.

In many ways, it felt like a modern West Side Story. Just without the gang wars and Romeo and Juliet vibes. (So yeah, not like West Side Story at all, I guess.) It’s a celebration of diversity and place and heritage and people in general. The rhythm felt very Hamilton-esque. I’d try to sum up the plot, but it’s really a kaleidoscope of different plot lines all arranged around Washington Heights and its impending gentrification. The neighborhood is changing, and its changing the lives of everyone in it. But it also shows how things are always changing and evolving and moving forward, and it’s a celebration of that as well. There are no real villains in the show. No one’s out to sabotage the place. There’s no one everyone can fight against and overcome. It’s just life.

Do I regret not having seen it in the theater? In some ways, perhaps? It’s definitely a show that would play well to a crowd. But at the same time, I got to watch it with subtitles on, which made it much easier to understand and follow. I went into the movie blind. I’d seen a trailer, and that’s about it when it came to the plot or the music. The lyrics come fast and furious, and they’re hard to catch. I definitely would like to rewatch it again soon, just so I have an easier time keeping up with it all. I think seeing it without the subtitles would have left me more bewildered.

The songs are great. The acting is great. The voices are great. The choreography is great. The cinematography is great. There’s honestly not anything I can nitpick about the movie. I loved it from start to finish, and I heartily recommend it. 10/10. It’s fantastic.


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