Quick Reviews: 'In The Heights', 'Don't Look Up' | Musical, Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio
IN THE HEIGHTS
Not keeping things on the down low is a film adaptation of In The Heights, originated on stage by screenwriter Quiara Alegría Hudes and co-composer and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda (playing Piragüero). Rather similar to its stage version, director Jon M. Chu's movie follows a mostly Dominican community in the neighbourhood of Washington Heights in Manhattan where bodega owner Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) starts telling a group of kids a story about his life there. Along the way, we're introduced to his love interest and aspiring fashion designer Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), college student Nina (Leslie Grace) and her love interest Benny (Corey Hawkins), Nina's dad Kevin (Jimmy Smits) and many others. Usnavi recounts him and them chasing their personal dreams and facing life-altering decisions while trying to stay truthful to the community that raised them.
Energy that radiates from In The Heights is infectious from the first song on and the way that it introduces the large ensemble to you is pretty damn impressive. Each character has their own thing going on and yet their stories are well-staged at the same time that you're tapping your feet to the beat. You can really see that dance choreographers and Chu went all out for the song numbers since they are able to separate themselves stylistically even when the songs start to sound similar—which is not a good sign for a musical, by the way. The film also never loses its life-affirming sensibility which inspires many of the performances, singing and dancing styles, even breaking the dread once in a while, such as in a number with Nina and Benny where the characters are moving up and down a building.
Some of the characters' stories do get repetitive along with the music and some of them maybe should've been cut from this adaptation completely to make the transitions flow a bit better. Romantic developments especially suffer from this and they could've had more backstory before we meet those characters because those moments make sequences drag whilst their outcomes seem somewhat rushed.
Smileys: Choreography, tone
Frowneys: Some issues with pacing and story
DON'T LOOK UP
Watch out people, there's another disaster movie heading your way in the form of Don't Look Up, except that this one is a satirical comedy directed and written by Adam McKay. Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio star as PhD candidate Kate Dibiasky and Dr. Randall Mindy, respectively, two astronomers from Michigan who discover a giant, world-ending comet heading towards Earth in six month's time. This discovery leads them and fellow scientist Dr. Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan) to report the findings to the president of United States (played by Meryl Streep) and her chief-of-staff (Jonah Hill) whose cautiousness inspire them to go on a media tour where they would by themselves warn the world about the impending doom.
Much of the film can be really exhausting, not only because of how heavy-handed McKay's humour and writing is but also how it seems that everything is thrown at the wall to see what sticks and what doesn't. There are good things going with the setup as Kate and Randall's response to the threat connects scenes together very well, especially letting Lawrence do a lot in her role with the character's increasing panic, despair and eventual depressive state. After the first 30 minutes, the script kind of gives up on its characters and Hank Corwin's editing notably becomes a headache where the cuts just keep pummelling you until you need to wave the white flag because it doesn't let you into the scenes, instead it all just keeps distracting you.
In terms of cast and characters, those surrounding Lawrence and Morgan work better as Timothée Chalamet (as Yule) brings some new life to scenes with Kate, grounding the movie a bit more. Those aforementioned distractions come into play with Streep, Hill, Mark Rylance, Ariana Grande and Scott Mescudi since their stuff seems like McKay and the actors are just workshopping material that just doesn't work at all. The creative team might want to look up the term ''unfocused'' because that's what this film is.
Smileys: Jennifer Lawrence, premise
Frowneys: Editing, screenplay, Meryl Streep