|In the Heights|
|Directed by||Jon M. Chu|
|Screenplay by||Quiara Alegría Hudes|
In the Heights
|Edited by||Myron Kerstein|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$21.8 million|
In the Heights is a 2021 American musical drama film based on the stage musical of the same name by Quiara Alegría Hudes and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Directed by Jon M. Chu from a screenplay by Hudes, the film stars Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Olga Merediz, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Gregory Diaz IV, and Jimmy Smits. The film follows a similar plot to the musical, telling the story of a corner in the predominantly Dominican Washington Heights neighborhood of Upper Manhattan in New York City, where every member of the community pursues their dreams of a better life.
In the Heights was originally set to be adapted by Universal Pictures in 2008, with Kenny Ortega hired to direct. After that version fell through, the project was eventually started back up in 2016, with Chu set to direct and Ramos being cast in October 2018. The rest of the cast joined in April 2019, and filming took place around New York City that summer.
Originally intended to be released in 2020, In the Heights was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival on June 4, 2021, and was released in the United States on June 10 in theaters and simultaneously streaming on HBO Max for a month. It received acclaim from critics, with praise for Chu's direction, the story, and musical numbers, though was a disappointment at the box office, having grossed $21 million worldwide against its $55 million production budget.
Usnavi de la Vega tells children the story of Washington Heights. Owning a bodega, he introduces: Abuela Claudia, the matriarch of the neighborhood who raised him; Kevin Rosario, who runs the taxi company; Kevin's employee Benny; the salon ladies Daniela, Carla, and Cuca; Vanessa, Usnavi's love interest; and his cousin Sonny ("In the Heights").
Alejandro, an attorney and family friend, informs Usnavi his late father's business in the Dominican Republic, which he dreams of reviving, is for sale. Meanwhile, Kevin's daughter Nina returns from Stanford. After seeing Benny ("Benny's Dispatch"), she finds her father, telling him she cannot pay tuition, but he brushes her off, telling her not to worry ("Breathe").
Daniela's salon is moving to the Bronx due to rising rent. Nina arrives for a treatment, but reveals she has dropped out of Stanford, and leaves ("No Me Diga"). Vanessa submits a rental application downtown, where she dreams of becoming a fashion designer, but her application is rejected ("It Won't Be Long Now"). She heads to Usnavi's bodega, where Sonny asks her out for him.
Sonny learns a lottery ticket the bodega sold won $96,000. In the public pool, the neighborhood fantasizes about what they would do with the money ("96,000"), while the Piragüero laments how Mister Softee is stealing his business ("Piragua"). That weekend, Benny and Nina reminisce about their childhoods. She expresses her doubts and fears, but he reassures her she is destined for greatness ("When You're Home"). Meanwhile, Usnavi talks to Sonny's father about letting him go with him to the Dominican Republic, but he implies he and Sonny are undocumented immigrants and cannot leave.
That evening, Kevin reveals he sold his business to pay for Nina's tuition. Outraged, she refuses the money and storms out. Usnavi and Vanessa head to the salsa club for their date, with Benny and Nina. At the club, Usnavi is nervous and aloof, and he declines to dance with Vanessa. A man steals her away for a dance, allowing multiple men to dance with her. Jealous, Usnavi tries to make Vanessa jealous too by dancing with another woman ("The Club"). The power goes out, and Sonny and Graffiti Pete light up fireworks, illuminating the neighborhood. Vanessa and Usnavi argue, and she rejects him ("Blackout").
Lying in bed, Abuela reminisces about her childhood in Cuba, and how she came to NYC, enduring hardships to be where she is today ("Paciencia y Fe"). She dies, and the neighborhood comes together to mourn and sing her praises ("Alabanza"). At a protest for DACA, Sonny learns that he cannot go to college, as he is an undocumented immigrant. Learning this, Nina resolves to go back to Stanford to find a way for undocumented immigrant children to find a pathway in life.
Usnavi finds Vanessa's rental application in the trash. He visits Daniela, asking her to co-sign on Vanessa's application. Disappointed with the block's negativity over the blackout and Abuela's passing, Daniela rouses them into a celebration and the blackout ends ("Carnaval del Barrio").
A month later, Nina is about to return to Stanford, Benny promises to find a way to join her in Palo Alto, and they kiss ("When the Sun Goes Down"). As Usnavi prepares to leave for the Dominican Republic, he discovers that Abuela held the winning lottery ticket, and has left it to him. Vanessa arrives, having found out that Usnavi got Daniela to co-sign on her lease, and bought him champagne. She suggests Usnavi stay, but he refuses. She kisses him, lamenting that she was too late in realizing her feelings ("Champagne").
Usnavi gives Alejandro the lottery ticket, telling him to use it for Sonny's DACA fees. The next morning, Vanessa takes Usnavi to the bodega and shows him a fashion line she created the previous night. Seeing Pete's murals celebrating Abuela, Usnavi decides to stay. The story returns to the present day, where Usnavi is revealed to be telling his story in the new shop in New York City, and one of the children is Usnavi and Vanessa's daughter. They sing and dance in the street ("Finale"). In a post-credits scene, Mister Softee's truck breaks down and the Piragüero celebrates his victory by raising prices by a dollar ("Piragua (Reprise)").
The film includes cameos by Original Broadway cast members Seth Stewart and Javier Muñoz. As well as background vocals by Andréa Burns, Janet Dacal, Mandy Gonzalez, Joshua Henry, Krysta Rodriguez, and Jon Rua. Broadway actor Patrick Page appears as Pike Phillips. Miranda's parents Luis and Dr. Luz Towns-Miranda make cameo appearances. The Kid Mero voices the DJ at the start of the film. Valentina cameos as a patron of Daniela's salon. NPR journalist Maria Hinojosa cameos as the protest leader at the DACA rally.
On November 7, 2008, Universal Pictures announced that they planned to adapt the original musical as a feature film for release in 2011. Kenny Ortega was set to direct the film, which was slated to begin filming in summer 2011 with a budget of $37 million. However, the project was canceled in March 2011; reportedly, this was due to the fact Universal was looking for a "bankable Latino star" like Shakira or Jennifer Lopez instead of unknown actors. In January 2012, Lin-Manuel Miranda stated that the film adaptation was back under discussion; in the meantime, he went on vacation and started to read a biography of Alexander Hamilton, which would lead to his next project, Hamilton. In May 2016, it was announced that Miranda would co-produce the film with Harvey Weinstein and backing from The Weinstein Company. On June 10, 2016, Jon M. Chu came on board to direct the film adaptation of the musical. In the aftermath of numerous sexual misconduct allegations made against Weinstein, his producer credit on the film was removed, with the rights to the film eventually auctioned off to Warner Bros. for $50 million. Warner Bros. was one of several studios wanting to produce In the Heights—due to the success of Hamilton; to persuade Miranda and Chu, they built a backlot bodega with piragua carts and set up performances of songs from the show. The budget was set at $55 million.
In October 2018, Anthony Ramos was cast in an undisclosed role, later revealed to be the lead of Usnavi. Miranda, who played the role in the Broadway production, watched Ramos play the part in the 2018 Kennedy Center production and praised him on Twitter. In January 2019, Corey Hawkins was cast in the role of Benny. In April 2019, Jimmy Smits, Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace, Olga Merediz, Gregory Diaz, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Stephanie Beatriz and Dascha Polanco were cast. In June 2019, Marc Anthony and Lin-Manuel Miranda joined the cast, with Miranda cast as Piragüero. Miranda revealed in an interview on The Tonight Show that he initially did not plan on appearing in the film at all, having decided he was too old to play Usnavi during development. Chu and Hudes subsequently pushed for him to play the Piragüero, which he was reluctant to do. He relented when Hudes threatened to cut the song "Piragua" unless he played the role.
Filming began on June 3, 2019, in New York City. The bulk of filming was done at the intersection of 175th Street and Audubon Avenue, where STO Domingo Grocery Inc. was used as the exterior of the bodega. The musical number "96,000" was filmed at the Highbridge Pool featuring synchronized swimming and shot over two days with 500 extras. Christopher Scott, who had worked with Jon M. Chu on the YouTube series The LXD as well as the films Step Up Revolution and Step Up All In, served as choreographer. "Paciencia y Fe" was shot in the abandoned lower level of the Brooklyn Ninth Avenue station, which had previously been used in the film Joker (the "Joker Stairs" were also used as a filming location). The team had wanted to film the sequence inside the New York Transit Museum but could not as they were only allowed to use the space for the one day the museum is closed to the public. However, they were able to rent vintage subway cars from the museum for use in the number. The tunnel sequence was shot in the pedestrian tunnel at the 191st Street station. As the tunnel is a public access point for the station, the team was only given permission to close it for filming at night. The lights, which were rigged during the day while the tunnel was open, were initially designed to display a rainbow of light, but at the last second Chu had them changed to red, white, and blue – the colors of the Cuban, Puerto Rican, and American flags.
The vocal performances in the film are a mix of the actors singing live on-set, pre-recorded audio, and re-recorded in the studio during post-production. The production team's choice to use one or the others depended on the environment of the scene and tone of the song. Usnavi and Vanessa's duet, "Champagne", which is one continuous shot, was recorded entirely on-set.
The film is dedicated to the memory of Doreen Montalvo, a member of the original Broadway cast who appears in the film as one of the singers during "Breathe" and reprises her role as the Bolero singer performing "Siempre". Montalvo died in October 2020, after the film's postponed release date.
Several changes were made from the musical, which first ran in 2005, such as adding references to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy and microaggressions, and cutting certain characters and songs. The most significant of these cut characters is Camila Rosario, Nina's mother, who is still alive in the musical: Hudes cited a desire to focus on two specific matriarchs in the community, Abuela Claudia and Daniela. In addition, a reference to Donald Trump in "96,000" was changed to Tiger Woods.
|In the Heights (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)|
|Soundtrack album by|
|Released||June 10, 2021|
The film's soundtrack album was released on June 10, 2021 - the same day as its U.S. release - on Atlantic Records/WaterTower Music. It was produced by Miranda along with Alex Lacamoire, Bill Sherman and Greg Wells. The film contains one new song, "Home All Summer", which plays during the end credits and is the last track on the album. The title track was made available with the album's pre-order on April 23, 2021. The song "96,000" was released via streaming on May 3, 2021.
"Piragua (Reprise)" is not listed on the track as it is part of a post credits scene.
Two songs created for the film but not included on the soundtrack are "Always", a doo-wop version of "Siempre" performed by original Nina Mandy Gonzalez in the background of the dry cleaners scene, and "Cuándo Llega El Tren", performed by Bronx musician Flaco Navaja, which plays in the background of the bodega when Sonny helps Usnavi ask Vanessa out. Both songs feature backing vocals by Miranda, Lacamoire, and Sherman. In addition, a hold music version of "You'll Be Back" from Hamilton plays as an easter egg during the scene where Kevin Rosario calls Stanford. Just as Miranda pays homage to New York rap artists like Mobb Deep and The Notorious B.I.G. in Hamilton through referencing some of their most famous lyrics, he similarly honors the Queensbridge rapper Nas during Diaz's verse on 96,000 by using a looped piano riff that is reminiscent of Nas' N.Y. State of Mind.
All tracks are written by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
|1.||"In the Heights"||7:41|
|3.||"Breathe" (featuring Rubén Blades and Doreen Montalvo)||4:06|
|4.||"No Me Diga"||2:24|
|5.||"It Won't Be Long Now"||3:38|
|8.||"When You're Home"||5:23|
|11.||"Paciencia y Fe"||4:39|
|13.||"Carnaval del Barrio"||7:00|
|14.||"When the Sun Goes Down"||2:52|
|17.||"Home All Summer" (featuring Marc Anthony)||3:48|
In the Heights was first screened virtually for critics on April 15, 2021. It had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on June 9, 2021, following an advanced screening at the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival on June 4, 2021 at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood. It was released in the United States on June 10, 2021, in both theaters and on HBO Max. According to Samba TV, the film was streamed on HBO Max by 693,000 households over its first three days of release, lower than previous day-in-date Warner Bros. titles like Mortal Kombat (3.8 million) and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (1.6 million). Research firm Screen Engine reported the film was the third-most streamed film across all platforms in its opening weekend behind Mortal Kombat (which was available via PVOD) and Awake.
It was previously scheduled to be released on June 26, 2020, but it was delayed to June 18, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, before being moved up a week to June 11, and finally one day earlier to June 10. On May 9, 2021, select Cinemark, Regal Cinemas and AMC theaters hosted a free advance screening in honor of Mother's Day.
Internationally, the film was released in the United Kingdom on June 18, 2021. Other markets like European and Australasian countries have scheduled dates planned for between July and September 2021.
As of June 20, 2021[update], In the Heights has grossed $19.7 million in the United States and Canada, and $2.1 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $21.8 million. Due to its $55 million production budget and another $50 million spent on marketing, Variety estimated the film would need to gross around $200 million worldwide in order to break-even.
In the United States and Canada, In the Heights was released alongside Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, and was initially projected to gross as high as $25–35 million from 3,456 theaters in its opening weekend, though an estimate of $10 million to the midteens was also suggested. A poll by Fandango Media found that the film would be the first seen in a theater since the pandemic began for 96% of people pre-ordering tickets for it. After grossing $5 million on its first day, weekend estimates were lowered to $13 million. It went on to debut to just $11.5 million, finishing second behind holdover A Quiet Place Part II. 67% of the audience was over the age of 25, with 63% being female; 40% of the opening weekend audience was Latino. While some analysts, such as Anthony D'Alessandro for Deadline Hollywood, suggested that the film's underperformance could be partially blamed on its simultaneous release on HBO Max, Rebecca Rubin posited in Variety that it could be attributed to alternate factors, such as the film's 143-minute runtime reducing the number of individual screenings per day, 25% of American theaters remaining closed at the time of release (and many theaters which had opened limiting audiences due to social distancing measures), and the film's source material and lead cast members having relatively low name recognition. The film fell 60% in its second weekend, grossing $4.5 million and finishing in sixth.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, In the Heights holds an approval rating of 96% based on 274 reviews, with an average rating of 8.4/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Lights up for In the Heights, a joyous celebration of heritage and community fueled by dazzling direction and singalong songs." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 84 out of 100 based on 53 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported 88% of audience members gave it a positive score, with 67% saying they would definitely recommend it.
Monica Castillo of the TheWrap wrote: "Like Crazy Rich Asians, not everyone is going to feel represented when they watch In the Heights. That's an impossible task for any movie. Yet In the Heights can represent many things for many different viewers. It can be a story about ambitious, hard-working people chasing their dreams. It can be a reflection on the immigrant experience and the struggle to find where you belong. It can also be a tribute to our parents' sacrifices." From The Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney said: "The movie glows with an abundance of love for its characters, their milieu and the pride with which they defend their cultural footprint against the encroaching forces of New York development that continually shove the marginalized further into the margins. The resilience with which the characters claim their place in the fabric of city life is exhilarating." In his review for Variety, Peter Debruge praised Chu's direction and wrote: "Like its source, the movie is a blast, one that benefits enormously from being shot on the streets of Washington Heights." IndieWire's David Ehrlich gave the film an A-, saying: "So exuberant and full of life that it would probably convince you the movies were back even if they hadn't gone anywhere, In the Heights is the kind of electrifying theatrical experience that people have been waxing nostalgic about ever since the pandemic began — the kind that it almost seemed like we might never get to enjoy again... Seeing this massive, guileless, heartfelt piece of Hollywood entertainment on the big screen is like coming home after a long year in exile only to find that it's still there, and maybe even better than you remembered."
The film has drawn criticism for its casting choices, which seemingly excluded Afro-Latino actors with darker skin colors and misrepresented the demographics of Washington Heights, leading to accusations of colorism. Miranda issued an apology on social media regarding the matter shortly after the film's release. He also addressed the controversy during an appearance on The Daily Show, where he stressed that while "there's so much Afro-Latinidad in the movie, the beef really was specifically dark-skinned Afro-Latinos in leading roles... and I totally understand that and I receive it and I just have to do better on the next one." Actress Rita Moreno defended Miranda during an interview on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, saying: "It's like you can never do right, it seems... This is the man who literally has brought Latino-ness and Puerto Rican-ness to America[n entertainment]". She added in reference to Miranda, "They're really attacking the wrong person." Moreno's comments received further backlash, with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists calling them "unacceptable." She subsequently issued a statement walking back her remarks, stating in part, "I was clearly dismissive of Black lives that matter in our Latin community. It is so easy to forget how celebration for some is lament for others." Political commentator and native New Yorker Bill Maher felt the criticism was unfounded, and that Miranda should not have apologized to the "internet bullies" adding: "I mean, he's a Latino making a Latino movie with a Latino cast -- not good enough! Nothing is ever good enough for these people! They're like children. We don't raise our children right and it's reflected in the media. No one ever tells their children, 'Shut the f--- up, sit down, listen to your elders, stop b----ing.'".
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