Lin-Manuel Miranda Musical Adapts to Summer Screen: NPR


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Anthony Ramos and Melissa Barrera play Osnavi and Vanessa in the film in the highlands.

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Anthony Ramos and Melissa Barrera play Osnavi and Vanessa in the film in the highlands.

Warner Bros.

in the heights Couldn’t be more perfectly timed. For one thing, summer movies don’t get much more summer than this one, which takes place during a record-breaking New York heat wave. On the other hand, this vibrant adaptation of the screen Lin Manuel Miranda The musical captures something we haven’t been largely missing over the past year: a sense of exhilaration for teamwork.

This is the most antisocial movie I’ve seen in months. The action unfolds in crowded store aisles and gossip-filled beauty salons where everyone knows everyone. Musical numbers, mixing hip-hop, Latin pop, salsa, and other styles, often permeate the surrounding neighborhood. Actors become dancers in an electrifying street ballet.

Much of this is packed into the film’s carriage opening sequence, which brings us to this Latin barrio in Washington Heights. Miranda appears in a small role as a salesman, selling shaved ice from a pushchair, but our real guide to this upper Manhattan neighborhood is Usnavi de la Vega, played by the adorable Anthony Ramos.

Usnavi has a popular bodega corner which is especially appreciated for its being leche café. As he sings about the challenges of running his small business scattered in a rapidly promoting venue, he is joined by a chorus of voices from the neighborhood singing about their own struggle to survive.

As much as he loves Washington Heights and the people who live there, Osnavi longs to return to the shores of the Dominican Republic where he grew up. He hopes his teenage cousin, played by Gregory Diaz IV, will come with him, but Sonny, an undocumented immigrant, dreams of becoming a US citizen in a subplot that has made recent headlines. One of the most influential ideas from in the heights It is that everyone has a different concept of home.

Usnavi has a long-standing charm for Vanessa, played by the excellent Melissa Barrera, who hopes to move downtown and become a fashion designer. Leslie Grace plays their friend Nina, an academic star who has just had a rough year at Stanford, where she feels like she doesn’t belong. But her father, Kevin – a sweet turn of Jimmy Smits – wants Nina to stick with him: If she can’t break out of heights and succeed, he thinks, then what hope is there for anyone else?

Kevin, who immigrated to New York from Puerto Rico decades ago, runs a taxi company that is one of the few remaining Latino-owned businesses in the area. With rents rising and people and businesses forced out, the community gets a shot of the excitement when Osnavi discovers that someone has bought a winning lottery ticket for a $96,000 jackpot from Bodega.

I saw in the heights On stage in Los Angeles back in 2010, while the screenwriter Quiara Alegria Hudes She made some clever tweaks and inlays on her original book of music, and some of the material’s primary weaknesses are still found here. Many of the romantic and ambitious subplots are interesting enough, but feel sparsely stretched over two hours. Washington Heights feels more lively and immediate on screen than it does on stage, but in some ways, the simplistic and unrelentingly optimistic nature of the story is more evident.

With that said, there’s nothing wrong with staying optimistic for now, and director John M Choo has a lot of responsibility. Take out Cho earlier Crazy Rich AsiansHe is good at narrowing the resonant ideas of intergenerational conflict and cultural confusion into an ingenious package that pleases the masses. It’s worth noting that Chu also made two entries into a file step up A dance movie franchise, and while I sometimes wish the editing would slow down and let the musical numbers breathe more, it’s very hard to resist the sheer dynamism of its filmmaking.

in the heights It may not be a great movie, but it is a great movie watching experience. There are beautiful moments here, like Benny and Nina doing a surreal gravity-defying dance along the side of an apartment building. There are also exhilarating things, like when the neighborhood is rocked by heat wave blackout, and they band together to throw the mother of all parties.

And a single knockout from Abuela Claudia, the neighborhood adopted grandmother, played by Olga Merediz, re-enacts her Tony-nominated role superbly. Claudia’s big number is called “Paciencia y Fe,” or “patience and faith,” values ​​she has clung to since her move from Cuba in the 1940s. She is the living embodiment of this film’s loving and enduring spirit.


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