In The Heights
Opens Friday USA
Australian Advance Screenings now
* * * *
Jon M. Chu’s adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes’ musical In The Heights is ecstatic cinema, a huge, friendly, rabidly upbeat celebration of some pretty phenomenal music, mostly exceptionally sung and arranged. There are some jaw-droppingly pleasing moments of inspired choreography and in general all the ‘big numbers’ are supremely well staged. It’s a bit mawkish, but never insultingly so. It’s like a huge musical feel-good alternative Do The Right Thing, where the characters respond to an urban New York heatwave and blackout, not with a riot, but with fireworks, community coherence, and, of course, song and dance. A bunch of original Hamilton cast members are here, placing In The Heights firmly in a MirandaVerse, and everything about it feels like a very good prototype for Miranda’s masterpiece to come. If this is this good, imagine what a fully realised cinematic treatment of Hamilton by this teamcould be.
Elvis Presley: The Searcher is an HBO documentary series (two parts, each two hours) from 2018 which has recently debuted on Netflix. It’s personal and intimate, using audio from musicians (including Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen), friends, contemporary bandmates and, vitally, Priscilla Presley, over much archive footage and photography and using Elvis’ 1968 comeback special as a kind of dramatic fulcrum. Like any doco about Elvis – and there have been many – the footage of Elvis himself is the most captivating; there is a lot of it here, and the result is a pretty comprehensive, enlightening and ultimately worthy addition to the Presleyverse. I adored every minute.
There is a moment in Halston, Netflix’s five-part, Ryan Murphy-produced (melo)dramatic rendering of the designer’s life and career, when Halston (Ewen McGregor, weirdly cast) is being urged to cut costs. When told he could stop buying orchids, he flatly refuses, saying, “Orchids are part of my process. Can’t put a budget on inspiration.” It’s a good line; unfortunately it’s one of the few. The production design is fabulous (as it should be) and so is Krysta Rodriguez as Liza Minnelli. But the script is woeful, with dialogue no human being would say, should say, or could say with any sense of truth. If you want pretty dresses, though, they’re splendidly recreated here.