Peer Review by Chai Tea (Australia)

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'In The Heights', because family isn't defined by blood

By: SunV

In all honesty, I was dying to watch In The Heights because I had never truly exited my Hamilton phase, and needed to see this other acclaimed masterpiece by Lin-Manuel Miranda. I was not disappointed.

The musical-turned-movie, set in Washington Heights, follows a young store owner, Usnavi, and the other residents of the town; as they try to save their disappearing town, all the while figuring out how to live out their dreams. For Hamiltfans, familiar faces pop up throughout the movie, the lead being Anthony Ramos, with appearances from both Lin-Manuel himself, and Christopher Jackson. Stephanie Beatriz, known for her role as Rosa on Brooklyn-Nine-Nine, plays a smaller but important role, and Olga Merediz, who played the same role throughout the broadway run of the musical, reprises her role as Abuela. Some other noteworthy actors in the musical are Melissa Barrera (Vanessa), Leslie Grace (Nina) and Corey Hawkins (Benny).

On the surface, the musical seems like a fun little piece about the lives of the people; we watch as they fall in and out of love, and listen to funky musical numbers where everyone's dancing on the street.

But looking a little deeper-- why did a musical with a plot like such become such a big hit? Why did it draw me in, a person who needs a plot to be drawn into any story? Why has it become such a big name in musical theatre?

Some themes that the play adresses goes deeper than what you can see on the surface. Nina, who is undoubtedly one of the brightest young adults from Washington Heights, quits her dream college because she found herself out of place there. Or in other words, there was a lack of representation for her community, and growing up in a place like Washington Heights, she never thought that would be the case. This leads to miscommunication, damaged relationships, but ultimately, new purposes.

Undocumented immigrants and the struggles they face were also brought up in the movie, and the process of getting documented and legalised plays a huge factor.

The musical also shows the struggle of being able to live comfortably, especially in a state like New York, where affording an apartment can be a huge struggle. LIving on smaller jobs are getting harder day-by-day, and the harsh reality is that reversing this isn't going to be easy, maybe even impossible.

But the movie also talks about having a community, one where, even in the midst of a blackout, they light up the streets. Having friends who will tease you about the fact that you are most definitely attracted to the local bodega owner, but when he breaks your heart, will be there to watch a movie and have popcorn. It shows how family isn't defined by blood, and your family is who you make it.

The editing and cinematography are all absolutely spectacular. A third of the movie is spent in a blackout, and the feel of the light in the midst of darkness was emphasised and pulled of with grace, and the large dance numbers on the streets of Washington Heights were captured with wide-angle shots, with the occassional close ups now and again.

The movie starts out with Usnavi narrating what was to come to four young children, in what seems like a beach. But as the movie progresses, we realise that what we thought was the beach, was not the beach at all. No-- it had been Washington Heights all this time. The characters we see have an air of realism around them-- they're not perfect, but that makes them more relatable. 

The blend of comedy, drama and romance is something I never thought I'd enjoy, since I don't particularly enjoy comedy when it's a dominating genre, but this was an exception. Every single character had something to teach me, and each storyline left with me something to think about.

Washington Heights. Say it, do it doesn't disappear.

Draft 1! And possibly only draft till after the expert review or so-- feedback is greatly appreciated!

Message to Readers

So I finally found In the Heights on YouTube, and watched it at the firt opportunity. If you've watched the movie, what can I add (also can we talk and obsess over it?) and if you haven't yet, based off my review, would you watch it?

Peer Review

I was impressed with how your opening line referenced your personal experience watching In The Heights. This was engaging for me as a reader and drew me in to the rest of your piece.

I feel that the beginning of your review could be strengthened by evaluative language that ensures your opinion of the film is clear from the start. I would also be interested to know if there was a specific group in society you would recommend to watch In The Heights. This information might fit nicely within your piece's introduction.

I did notice a small spelling error in the title of your piece. By adjusting the spelling of 'Heights', your piece could seem slightly more professional than it already is.

I found your analysis of the messages within the film insightful and supportive of your claims about In The Heights' value. Your identification of the film's family-related morals was thoughtful and enhanced the reader's understanding of its plot line. Through this analysis, you have subtly revealed how In The Heights is relevant to our society today.

You have provided wonderful details about the themes of In The Heights. As you continue to refine your review, I would love to see you flesh out your outline of the film's plot. I felt that this section of your review could be more detailed and ordered in a more chronological way.

Likewise, I am interested to hear your thoughts about the musical numbers within the film. Which songs were highlights, and did you find that the transition of In The Heights from stage to screen altered the musical numbers of the film in any way?

I have really enjoyed looking at your work. I can see you are a insightful reviewer that has the potential to inspire budding film critics like me. I can't wait to see what you do with this piece!

Reviewer Comments

Hi SunV! This was a truly fantastic review, so I had to be quite nitpicky when suggesting improvements. My comments are just my opinions, so feel free to ignore them when you feel it necessary. I hope I've been helpful.
Have a wonderful day!