Morning in Washington Heights. One man got out of bed, smiled, then mumbled, “This is the best day of my life”, before opening the bodega he had managed for years, inherited from his late father. In the middle of the trip, chewing gum stuck to his shoes. He was annoyed for a moment, but soon his singing, dancing and smiling returned. Likewise when he realized he had run out of milk due to a damaged cooler. Best Movie Site
One by one the customers came. Not just shopping, also chatting, gossiping, talking about anything that can be discussed. Then we were invited out, to see the activities of all the residents in the morning, the majority of whom are descendants of Puerto Rican immigrants. We see every corner of the complex, visit the businesses that are run. Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) is the name of the owner of the bodega. He’s our protagonist, but In the Heights isn’t all about him. Because this is not an individual story, but a communal one.
And not an ordinary story. Immigrants are often called “dreamers”. They are indeed dreamers, who live by the soul of sueñitos (which literally translates to “little dreams”). It is described that buying a lottery that promises a grand prize of 96 thousand dollars is part of the routine. The amount purchased is not much. It doesn’t matter if you fail to win. Not a form of laziness, but a symbol of the dream of improving a life that never goes away, no matter how bad the situation. Because In the Heights, even though it raises many struggles and difficulties, is not a film about suffering. Instead, it’s a story about those who think life is a gift. That life, dreams, and love, deserve to be celebrated.
Usnavi has a dream of returning to his hometown to re-manage his father’s beachside bar. Another of his dreams is to date a salon employee named Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), but he doesn’t have the guts to say it. Meanwhile, Vanessa dreams of becoming a fashion designer, and moves to a better apartment, in the city center. Her best friend, Nina (Leslie Grace), is hailed as the pride of the people, thanks to her success in studying at Stanford, although an obstacle makes her uncomfortable with the praise. Top Movie
There are many other characters that we meet. Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV), Usnavi’s cousin who helps him take care of the bodega; Benny (Corey Hawkins), Usnavi’s best friend and Nina’s ex-lover; Claudia (Olga Merediz), who not only takes care of Usnavi since childhood, but also the whole community. Yes, while Usnavi is central, Quiara Alegría Hudes’ script, which adapted the musical of the same name with Lin-Manuel Miranda, actually delves into so many characters, giving everyone a chance to shine.
The result is a bustling, yet organized and centralized 143 minutes, although a few minutes’ duration seems helpful. The foundation remains about life in general, and the lives of Puerto Rican immigrants specifically. How as a minority who are constantly being challenged they always try to celebrate life, reach their dreams, and of course, seek the definition of “home”. The answer is standard. Home is people, not a place. Because the destination is number two. The most important thing is the process of reaching that destination. The process of understanding the definition of a real home.
Countdown to blackout repeatedly appears on the screen (starting from D-3). This blackout incident was later used to create a metaphor for the word “powerless” (the song Blackout), about immigrants who refuse to extinguish the fire of life, even though they continue to be stripped of their power by the rulers and the majority.
Having directed two Step Up titles, including Step Up 3D (2010) as his best installment, Chu is clearly good at creating excitement. Moreover, it is supported by Anthony Ramos, whose smallest gestures are like a dance, and Melissa Barrera who…well, simply breathtaking (especially in the number The Club). While Lin-Manuel Miranda’s line of songs may not be the type to be memorized in one listen, but the festivity, along with the honest and occasional outpouring of feelings (very Miranda!), gives him strength.
But then again, In the Heights isn’t just fun. The director’s sensitivity is evident here. Through the choice of shots that support the feelings contained in each moment, Chu gives birth to beauty. From the beauty of the romantic at dusk that becomes the backdrop for Nina and Benny’s romance (the song When the Sun Goes Down) which seems to say that even gravity can’t hold back the power of love, to the beauty behind sadness, as when Nina expresses her heart (Breathe’s song), also the nuances of magical when the candles are lit in the dark, lightless night in Washington Heights (the song of Alabanza).
In the Heights shows the true power of musical films, where explorations can be represented by song, so traditional storytelling is not needed. For example, without much need to see the characters exchange love words, we can understand their feelings. The success of achieving this, making In the Heights the best musical film since La La Land stirred our hearts half a decade ago. Movie Review