It’s been a while since I’ve had the pleasure to see a musical in movie theaters – especially a broadway-adaption. Besides, I thought, as I walked into the theater, it’s Lin Manuel Miranda, isn’t it? Didn’t he do a show called Hamilton or something and it was like really really good? (I’m a huge fan of Hamilton).
I watched it, and overall didn’t much like it. Here’s my review I originally posted on Letterboxd.com:
“This was a good example of how a Broadway show can be ruined by a film adaption. Every musical sequence contained dozens of unnecessary camera angles edited in a mishmash of cinematographic convolution that distorted spatiality and butchered the integrity of any theatrical cohesion. The ability of film to portray space and time in a way that theater can’t explains the allure of a Broadway-adaption. But instead of using the unique advantages of film technique to further the impact of this popular musical, the director, in my opinion, completely mishandled and abused the intention of the cinematography, trying to capture every action with a different camera angle.
This annoying and theater-insulting editing style didn’t stop at musical numbers, but continued to normal dialogue between any two or more characters, brazenly cutting back and forth and here and there – and everywhere – seemingly thousands of times before the two characters had finished a single sentence apiece. It was as if the director was trying everything in his power to constantly remind the viewer that this was, in fact, a film, to the nth degree, and could therefore capture action in so many different ways than theater could. Instead of adding an interesting element to the theatrical, it ended up drawing far too much attention to itself and detracting from the quality of choreography, plot, and musical numbers. It wasn’t as though this abundance of shots was stylistic at all, either. They were mainly simplistic textbook cutaways, and, as far as dialogue was concerned, dull displays of basic ‘angle/reverse-angle.’
As a purely nit-picky sidenote, there were certain brief camera angles in which you could tell the characters mouth was completely out of sync with the song in question.
As far as other adaptation-qualities go, the acting was often ingenuous, and the staging awkward, especially in regular dialogue sequences. There were many artificial smiles and hugging and lots of being-friends-with-everyone, and over-gratuitous dialogue that gave critics free-reign to praise it as “life-affirming” and a “celebration” of life. These blurbs are only afflicted upon movies that are incredibly unrealistic and inauthentic to reality, in my experience.
As far as the actual plot goes (and I haven’t seen the original Broadway so I’m assuming this is somewhat similar to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s original vision), the characters seemed unrealistically motivated and not relatable, dialogue was cheesy and overly obvious at times (fireworks explode in the night sky, and the crowd on the streets burst into song: “fireworks! look at the fireworks!” Over and over). When the heat is almost unbearable and there’s no electricity, the entire community of the Heights, it would seem, is lounging idly in a courtyard, all purpose in life being taken from them, it would seem, until one of the central hairdressers stands on a table and urges them all to throw a dance party to combat the overwhelming desire to do nothing. Riveting.
The main characters all want to leave this small town at some point in time, but all of them end up staying because they realize how important their heritage is and how integral their community is to their lives. This became the central theme as well, and so it would seem as though it were promoting a small-town mentality where you live somewhere simply because your parents did, and pass on “the legacy they left with me,” the relatability of which may fall flat on our generation of independent souls who desire little else than to kick the dust off their shoes and leave town (or country) sometimes for the sole purpose of defying parental figures.
In the end, I didn’t much care what the characters did with their lives, but was rooting for the main character in his plan to leave the town (and was disappointed when he ended up staying *spoiler*).“
Personal rating? I’d still give it as much as a 3/5. My rating system is strange in that I rate movies I somewhat enjoyed overall at 3.5, a decently good movie at 4, amazingggg movies at 4.5 and most-exceptional-and-beyond at 5. I rate anything garbage below 3. Which places “In the Heights” at an “above garbage” for me, but still not up to par in my opinion.