There’s something called ‘cave syndrome’, which is the fear of returning to normalcy after a year of pandemic isolation, even after vaccination. Now there’s a cure that should get lots of people back into theaters. It comes courtesy of director Jon M Chu and writers Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes, in the form of their visually extravagant, joy-filled new release, In the Heights. The film genuinely celebrates community, togetherness, and loyalty in a way that is a balm to those who desperately yearn for it. Let’s be honest. That is all of us.
Based on the multi-Tony winning play, In the Heights follows Washington Heights Bodega owner Usnavi (the magnetic and warm Anthony Ramos), who works long hours, saving every dime so he can build a better life for himself. The character is the narrator and center of the story, and Ramos is perfectly cast, as are so many other characters populating this story, which includes lots of folks in the community connected to Usnavi, who all have dreams of their own. The biggest standout is a member of Usnavi’s beloved chosen family, the neighborhood’s de facto Abuela, Claudia, played by Olga Merediz, who was nominated for a Tony when she originated the role on Broadway. Hopefully there’ll be talk of an Oscar nomination for her later this year.
It makes sense that Jon M Chu would helm this extravagant musical, given he is the creator of the award-winning TV series The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers, as well as the over-the-top confection and blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians. In the Heights once again shows he is capable of balancing scale without compromising story. Director of Photography Alice Brooks has been collaborating with Chu since they were both film students at USC. She declared filming in NYC and in Washington Heights, a community she says informed ‘every movement of the camera and every subtle lighting cue’, has been the highlight of her career.
For the entire review, go to AWFJ.org HERE.