Jon M. Chu’s adaptation of the Broadway musical, In the Heights is a wonderfully directed film for modern audiences. The film features Lin Manuel Miranda’s signature rap beats from top to bottom. One of the biggest strengths of the film is the real-world setting of Washington Heights. Chu beautifully captures the neighborhood, and the story feels organically placed within it. The acting performances featured in the film also add to the grounded appeal of the story. The performances are top-notch, and you believe you could encounter anyone on screen in the real-world community of Washington Heights.
In Washington Heights
After watching the film, it seems like any other filming location other than Washington Heights itself would have been a mistake. Jon M. Chu has said as much. In the Heights may be one of the best cases for a film adaptation of a Broadway musical. It’s one of the rare times a story can be taken off stage and brought into its real-world setting. Washington Heights looks beautiful on camera too. The neighborhood bodegas and the urban streets seem made for a musical backdrop. Every choreographed sequence utilizes the natural landscape of Washington Heights, which oddly keeps every over-the-top dance number grounded in reality. It’s all a visual love letter to the neighborhood.
Performance Gets Real
Perhaps the best element of In the Heights is its beautiful performances by the film’s entire cast. Since the film is a pure musical, for actors, singing dialogue while interacting with one another in scenes adds a second wrinkle to an already difficult on-screen task. Each of the actors seamlessly accomplishes that feat. Those smaller moments of interaction between the characters give a real and authentic quality to the film. You believe like the characters presented on screen are people you would find in real-world Washington Heights because of the sense of friendship and community expressed by each of the characters.
Overall, In the Heights is a solid adaptation that highlights the fairytale moments found in a neighborhood and community.