Serving the Tarrant County College District

The Collegian

Serving the Tarrant County College District

The Collegian

Serving the Tarrant County College District

The Collegian

Movie review: Musical manages to land all high notes

Courtesy of Warner Media During the musical number “96,000,” the characters discuss what they would do if they won the lottery. The songs have a mix of rap and regular singing.

Jose Romero

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony award-winning Broadway musical “In The Heights” gave a glimpse of mainstream Hispanic representation in 2008. Skip forward to this year, and the musical received a movie adaptation that puts the culture in the forefront once again.

The film begins by introducing the main character Usnavi, played by Anthony Ramos, as he narrates a story to a group of children on a beach in an undisclosed location. He says he’s going to tell a story of a place filled with music. He begins rhythmically knocking on a table, kicking off the first musical number.

The music of this film takes inspiration from pieces of Hispanic culture. Hints of merengue, reggaeton, cumbia and modern rap can be found throughout. Each song gives the audience an idea of what the characters are thinking and the adversity they’re facing.

Usnavi is a charismatic protagonist who manages to get viewers to care about his end goal, which is to move back to Puerto Rico and reopen his late father’s shop. Currently, he resides in Washington Heights, a neighborhood in New York City. The neighborhood has a wide range of stories to tell. From a student who wants to drop out of Yale because of the prejudice she’s encountered to a salon owner who’s been pushed out of her shop due to rising prices, each story tackles various themes that relate to real-world struggles.

Each supporting character has something to offer. They’re never just there to fill the space.

Courtesy of Warner Media
Usnavi, played by Anthony Ramos, stands tall with a Puerto Rican flag during the musical number “Carnaval del Barrio.”

Sonny, played by Gregory Diaz IV, is Usnavi’s cousin, and they both run a convenience store in the corner of the neighborhood. Their relationship is heartwarming. Seeing how far Usnavi is willing to go to help Sonny really demonstrates how important family is in Hispanic culture.

All the relationships shown throughout the film capture the essence of friendship perfectly. Each character is just happy to be around one another and willing to help in any way, shape or form. And their musical numbers do not disappoint.

It’s difficult to not dance around to the melodies as a shot filled with great choreography and composition lights the screen. Numbers like “96,000” and “No Me Diga” are uplifting tunes that help progress the story by offering pivotal character moments through song. When the film needs to slow down and pull at heartstrings, it has no issue doing so. The transition never feels awkward and the breakout into song doesn’t feel out of place.

“Paciencia Y Fe” and “Finale” are two moments where the film manages to make the audience cry, but crack a smile at the end.

_“In The Heights” is a rare film. It’s an American big-budget movie that is almost entirely comprised of a Hispanic cast. It never treads away from talking about harder topics like gentrification and immigration. There is a line in the final song that stuck out to me. “But who’s gonna notice we’re gone.” That line captures the film perfectly.

There is uncertainty about the future, but the film never focuses on the negative aspects. It focuses on the present and the potential legacy to be left behind.

More to Discover