'In the Heights' is the rare Latino blockbuster. Three Times writers on what that means

'In the Heights' is the rare Latino blockbuster. Three Times writers on what that means

6/12/2021 8:17:00 AM

'In the Heights' is the rare Latino blockbuster. Three Times writers on what that means

Bodega coffee and raps about gentrification — we reflect on everything riding on Lin-Manuel Miranda's cultural unicorn

AdvertisementMIRANDA:The film is a little flabby in parts (cut 20 minutes!), but it embodies some really important issues. The first is that it’s a damn relief to watch an entire movie about Latinos that isn’t centered on gangbangers and that features Latinos of many distinct physical types.

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HERNANDEZ:That’s important and you’re right. This film is hitting all the most prominent and palatable notes of pan-Latin boosting while being rooted in the Dominican American experience of Usnavi and Upper Manhattan. I see this María Hinojosa cameo at a “Dreamer” rally. The “Carnaval del Barrio” number and its focus on each relevant flag to contemporary New York. Lin-Manuel popping in here and there as the piragua man. The meeting with the immigration lawyer. It’s like a fever dream of mainstream Latinidad for international audiences.

MIRANDA:“In the Heights” also does a good job of exploring some of the conditions related to migration. So much of the way we talk about immigration in this country is specifically connected to policy. But the film explores its psychology through Usnavi, who longs to return to the Dominican Republic even as he remains emotionally and physically linked to Washington Heights. It captures that mental in-between state. It also addresses the false nostalgia that so many immigrants can feel for their homeland. headtopics.com

Anthony Ramos, left, as Usnavi and Melissa Barrera as Vanessa in “In the Heights.”(Macall Polay / Warner Bros.)EXPOSITO:It also debunks the false narrative sold to many immigrants before they get to the States — they say those who work hard enough can ensure upward mobility for their children. Yet not every sacrifice buys a fast track to success. In Nina’s case, she makes it all the way to Stanford, only to get racially profiled for being the mixed girl on campus. It’s when she decides to use her brains to help immigrant kids like Sonny that her father says, “This is the moment you do better than me — you can see a future that I can’t.” If only all immigrant parents saw it that way!

HERNANDEZ:On that point, I have to say that this vision is a bit romanticized and polished at this point. It’s so Miranda. His themes are all about collecting loot, collecting clout, fulfilling an ambition, “making it.” A lot of times when we talk about “complicating” representation, for some of us that means longing for stories that break all those molds — all of them — about what are acceptable pursuits for us as immigrants or children of immigrants. Relationship to the homeland is one of those.

Throughout the whole film, Usnavi is waxing about the D.R. and his mission to relocate there, and, frankly, as someone who made a version of that romantic journey to Mexico, it’s never as rosy as it looks when the most you know of the home country is from college courses or the pictures of your parents.

MIRANDA:That is also partly due to the form. In musicals, sassy protagonists often face heartache and struggle with jazz hands.EXPOSITO: In the homeland, they’d struggle with mosquitoes.MIRANDA:Now that would be a good dance number! But, to Daniel’s point, I think Miranda’s work has functioned as a reaction to anti-immigrant sentiment and his stories seem a very pointed way of articulating the ways in which immigrants contribute. He has also given some really talented actors a literal stage. I want a future with more Anthony Ramos in it. headtopics.com

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AdvertisementHERNANDEZ:Ultimately, Jon M. Chu does something amazing here. The Latinas really take the whole show, the dancers, the picture overall, and that gravity-bending duet on the classic New York fire escape ends so lovingly. But overall I get why so-called Middle America finds Miranda’s musicals so palatable to their idea of what Latinos or “others” can and should do in their movies: dance, sing, achieve, do “good.” Is that the right message for 2021 and beyond? I’m not sure. But this film is in the record now and it will ultimately help move the needle effectively in some way.

Read more: Los Angeles Times »

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'In the Heights' breaks ground by rejecting old Latino movie tropesLin-Manuel Miranda said he and playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes 'stuck to our guns' to create dynamic characters often 'in the margins' of Hollywood's usual stories.

‘In The Heights’ Soundtrack Album Reaches the Same Heights as the MovieLin-Manuel Miranda’s joyous celebration of the Washington Heights neighborhood, “In The Heights” has finally arrived on the big screen and HBO Max… and also Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Music and a… The movie reached no height at all , same with the songs , none of them were remarkable

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Review: 'In the Heights' pure unleashed joy grabs you and never lets goOur reviewer Peter Travers describes the film version of Lin-Manuel Miranda's Tony-winning 2008 Broadway musical as a 'cinematic jolt of pure unleashed joy.' Hey! I've been playing some awesome games and getting crypto from it. Come play and earn with me on Womplay — I'm sure you'll love it!