“Little details that tell the world, we’re not invisible.”
Though available on HBOMax, I found it absolutely necessary to experience In the Heights in a movie theater while sitting between two of my favorite people.
From the mind of Lin-Manuel Miranda comes a story about Washington Heights. Full of exciting music, thrilling stories and joyful Latinidad, In the Heights is a celebration that deserves to be watched on the big screen. Hollywood has struggled to capture the excitement of a musical theater but Director Jon M Chu and his utilization of a wide shot made it so you felt every explosive moment.
There’s a specific kind of feeling that takes over when you’re watching your culture thrive on screen. Full of Spanglish, delicious food and amazing dancing; there’s no denying that this film tried its best to capture everything beautiful about beautiful about our culture. So many of our stories are rooted in our pain, it’s such a relief to see our joy splattered across the big screen.
Anthony Ramos and Melissa Barrera lead the talented cast with the ind of chemistry that has you rooted for them the entire time. Melissa Barrera’s star is just beginning to rise but after her performance of Vanessa, I’m sure we’ll be seeing her everywhere. Anthony Ramos, who was also in Hamilton, has the kind of charisma that immediately pulls all the attention when he’s on screen. With leads like these, there’s no wonder this film feels like a win.
Two performances that also excelled were Olga Merediz and Leslie Grace. Leslie Grace played Nina took my breath away. Her portrayal of the daughter that carries her parent’s dreams hit so close to home that her performance of “Breathe” is what got the tears rolling. Our parents can ask so much of us and because they’ve been stressed most of their life, they don’t take a moment to consider what the pressure does to us. Nina stands in her power and vulnerability, a beautiful portrayal of the strength Latinas possess. Olga Merediz as Abuela Claudia is the heart of this film. Her portrayal is another reminder of how strong Latinas are. Her performance of “Pacencia Y Fe” pulls at your heartstrings and forces a visceral reaction out of the audience.
Of course this film was a celebration of our joyful Latinidad but just as it celebrated our delicious cooking and impeccable dance moves, it also inadvertently reminded us of the colorism and anti-blackness that is embedded in our culture. If you go to New York and walk in Washington Heights you will notice that the streets are full of Afro-Latinx people and that’s exactly what is missing from this film. I think the casting could have benefited from diversity in skin color. Which is not to take away from any of the acting, but who’s to say that any dark-skinned Afro-Latinx actor could have also excelled in the roles?
If we’re truly going to advance in our fight for more representation, then we must acknowledge the colorism and racism that plagues our communities. If we are truly going to get proper representation then we must see Latinx people of all different shades in our stories. This film and what it has done for our community is important but this is only the first step and we must continue to do better.
You can now watch In the Heights on HBOMax.