In The Heights Review: A Dizzying Portrait Of A Musical Arcadia

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Musicals in Hollywood have a hoary history. While we wait to see what Steven Spielberg does with the mother of all musicals West Side Story, here is something that will make your hearts hum and your souls sing.


Straight off, In The Heights capturing the highs and lows of the Latin American community in New York, is a dream come true. Not because it is a majestic musical on a par with The Sound Of Music, The King & I or more recently La La Land (which I find enormously overrated). But because it brings a certain sting and sweep to the epic musical genre as we move from one well-written musical number to another creating a cascading blend of zingy sounds and vibrant dancing by a young cast that knows Bollywood is not the only bastion of ‘ditty’ dancing.


Ditties and dances throw open their arms to welcome us in this Broadway-style musical. The plot may be just a pretext for the music and dancing. But who cares! The film ricochets with a melodic impact,imparting a sense of advancing sonorousness to the peppy proceedings, as we get to know the film’s young Dominican hero Usnavi(Anthony Ramos, naturally gifted) who dreams of owning his own business even as he scrubs and shines and polishes other people’s dreams for a living.


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This is Cinderella with a gender reversal and a powerhouse musical propensity that spins an affable web around our hearts as Usnavi’s silent crush for Vanessa(Melissa Barrera) is all but crushed under the wheels of their individual dreams.


Though the film refuses to dwell on the despondency of the community’s poverty there is no dearth of heartbreaks in the narration as the dreamers of the show scarcely ever get a chance to be doers. There is Nina (the beautiful Leslie Grace) ready to throw away her dream of college education because her father(Jimmy Smits) can’t afford it, even though he insists he can.


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Although the cast’s dreams are downcast, there is no room for despair of despondency as the characters are perpetually in the swing of things, defying dancing their way into a light at the end of the tunnel,revelling in an Arcadian bubble, almost like the current situation where weddings and parties thrive as if Covid doesn’t exist.


In The Heights is the ultimate musical experience. Hats off to the Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M Chu for doing fulsome and voluptuous justice to the theme. Chu chews on the chimerical canvas,imparting a sense of ongoing flourish and excitement to the flimsiest of plot conventions. Only one person dies during the course of the 2 ½ hour plot. Never weighed down by melancholy In The Heights, true to its title, stays afloat singing and dancing clawing its way into hard-earned glory.



Image Source: Instagram/intheheightsmovie, youtube/warnerbrospictures


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