Visiting “Washington Heights” – A Movie Review

Carlos (Manny Perez) is an aspiring comic-book artist living among many Latinos and some whites in New York City, a locus of crime whereby Carlos is made to face much responsibility.  That is to say, his father Eddie (Tomas Milian) gets shot and paralyzed by a robber and Carlos must care for him (temporarily) and run Eddie’s old bodega.  Exasperation besets the young Dominican as he dwells with a man–Eddie–who fails to support Carlos’s cartoonist ambitions and was often unfaithful to the dead wife he now says he loved.  What’s more, Carlos is having problems with his girlfriend and scarcely treats her properly.  Disorder grows; folly never stops.

Washington Heights (2003), by Alfredo de Villa, is small but potent.  And humane.  Villa’s Washington Heights, a section of Manhattan, is not hellish, just rough and disheartening.  Even so, the film demonstrates a failure of nerve by crafting certain troubling realities and then scurrying away from them before the credits roll.  Why, after all, does Carlos’s best friend, the white fellow played by Danny Hoch, become a thief and what happens to the guy who perpetrates violence against him?  Villa gives the whole thing short shrift.  This is very much a young man’s movie–young man-made, I mean.  There is little intellectual and artistic maturity behind it.

But it is worthy.  Perez is passable, Milian a little more than that.  I wonder about Milian’s nuances but not his passion.  Hoch is entirely true and Bobby Cannavale is forceful, even unforgettable, as a half-likable punk with money.  The DV visuals are fine, and so are Villa’s scenes of bodega business and of tension between Carlos and Maggie the Girlfriend, etc.  He’s a talented fimmaker, familiar territory in WH notwithstanding.

Washington Heights

Washington Heights (Image via RottenTomatoes.com)

11 Responses to “Visiting “Washington Heights” – A Movie Review”

  • Karylle:

    This is really awesome!Thanks a lot for sharing it to us here…

  • Lindset:

    Nice and great kind of review.. Looking forward to read more like this..Thanks for sharing..

  • raenze:

    Great review for all of us!

  • Jennicah:

    Looks really awesome here! Thanks a lot!

  • Yasmine27:

    This is a great movie review. I’m excited about this movie. I have to watch this too!

  • Ynna:

    I will definitely watch this movie.Thanks for the review!

  • KM:

    I have a student watching this film for a paper. I have not watched it yet but my student felt that the director portrays the neighborhood in a very negative light, adhering to old stereotypes aobut Dominicans. She also thought it was unrealistic for the Irish and Dominican fathers to be close friends. Again, I still need to see it but I would love to hear your further impressions.

    • dean:

      I don’t really know what the stereotypes about Dominicans are, but I suspect that in “Washington Heights” they’re far and few between. The Irish & Dominican friendships probably are unrealistic.

      Thanks for your response.

      • KM:

        Hi Dean,
        Thanks for responding. My student (who is from the Heights) thought that the focus of the film on robberies and murder only contributed to a negative view of the neighborhood that is still recovering from its negative portrayal during the 1990s with the Washington Heights riots of 1992 and drug abuse in the neighborhood.

        I did watch the film finally this weekend. I did appreciate the colors, the music and the street scenes showing the beauty and resilience of a neighborhood that has gone through tough times but is now experiencing a revitalization period (lots of well-heeled non-Latinos moving in and buying up brownstones which both helps the local economy but hurts locals who can no longer afford rent increases that come with gentrefication). However, I did tire of the old trope about the Dominican male being a womanizer (Eddy cheated on his wife and hooks up with lots of prostitutes after her death, Carlos soon cheats on his girlfriend) and the focus on drugs and violence (Angel).

        What I did like about the film was that it showed the tough position Dominican American kids face. Do they identify with the neighborhood or with the DR? Do they reject both? Carlos at first wants to leave the Heights and go to lower Manhattan, escaping his cultural ties to the DR. He doesn’t want to identify as being from the Heights. Meanwhile, Angel, while earning money through the drug trade, dreams about moving back to the DR and getting away from the neighborhood as well. Eddy’s injury forces Carlos to stay in the Heights. Angel will never make it to the DR because of his crime.

        Thanks again for the review and for your comments.
        KM

  • This is a great review. You made a good review. You really help a lot of movie goers understand the movie.

  • Thanks for sharing this review. You have a unique and good movie review.

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