Lin-Manuel Miranda is a treasure. It took me a little longer to get hooked on his masterpiece “Hamilton” than some other superfans I know, but once it had me, I really fell for it.
Before “Hamilton,” Miranda casually dropped another Best Musical Tony-winner that had less crossover success, but still managed to challenge the theater crowd. His first winner was “In the Heights.” Since that show first hit Broadway when I was in middle school, it’s understandable that I was not familiar with “In the Heights” when it initially arrived. After “Hamilton,” I still struggled to get fully invested in “In the Heights.”
But when the film version of “In the Heights” was announced, I got excited. I’ve mentioned before that I’m more of a visual learner and consumer, so being able to see rather than just listen to “In the Heights” was something I was very much looking forward to.
I teased an impending recommendation, or lack thereof, for “In the Heights” in last week’s column and now, having actually seen the picture, it’s great to be able to say that the film is an absolute smash. I can see it not jiving with particular crowds, but if you have even the slightest appreciation for hip hop or urban living, there’s likely going to be something in here for you.
Personally, I just very much enjoyed the tone and color of the film. Though the film’s plot device revolves around a literal blackout, most of the scenes and musical numbers are extremely well lit and popping with color. Even the more somber numbers are oozing with life. I don’t know if I really understand the script that well, or if it is even coherent, but there’s so much other distraction going on that the usual criticisms can slide to the back.
While the actual plotting is a little underwhelming, “In the Heights” does play with some interesting concepts, especially gentrification, which is not a topic you typically see on the big screen. It’s a tough concept to visualize in two hours. Nevertheless, “In the Heights” pulls it off as best as you could imagine, and it isn’t preachy. A lack of overwhelming moral superiority usually helps a film reach a wider audience, and “In the Heights” is thoroughly lacking in pretentiousness.
“In the Heights” is a really solid film that would serve as a great return to the movie theater. It provided all of the feels and visuals I want in my summertime films, and, if it matters, the soundtrack, is one that I’ll be listening to throughout the year.
Sam Zavada is a copy editor with The Standard-Speaker in Hazleton. He previously served as the news clerk at The Standard-Speaker, working with the obituaries and the community and lifestyle pages. Sam’s work in print dates back to his time at King’s College, where he spent two years as the editor in chief of the school’s newspaper, The Crown. Earlier in his time with The Crown, he worked as a staff writer and the entertainment manager. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.