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Saturday, December 11, 2021

West Side Story (2021) Hollywood Movie Honest and Full Review

West Side Story (2021) Hollywood Movie
pic credit: Variety

At a Glance:

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writers: Tony Kushner(screenplay by) Arthur Laurents(based on the stage play, book by)

Stars: Ansel ElgortRachel ZeglerAriana DeBose

IMBD Rating: 8.2/10

Popularity: 21

Gener: Crime Drama Musical

Story Line & Review

It's almost too much for one film to contain: gentrification, immigration, ambition, race, class, identity, love, violence, friendship, family, tragedy, and stunning set-piece song and dance routines. And yet, with a screenplay by Tony Kushner, called "America's most significant living writer" by the New York Times, and Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, Steven Spielberg pulls it off. 

The 74-year-old director blends the disparate connections into a brilliant, joyful musical that soars but never loses sight of the bleak realities it depicts. This isn't a brand-new story. West Side Story, directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won ten of them. 

The film was based on a Broadway musical with a score by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, which opened in 1957. And the original material is even older: Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, which is reimagined for the mid-fifties in Manhattan. Despite this, this story of star-crossed lovers has a deep emotional resonance. 

Valentina, a new character in this version, sings, 'We'll find a new way of living, a new way of forgiving,' and her sadness is powerful. The swoony romance never overshadows the story's pain. Valentina, played by Rita Moreno, who won an Academy Award for her portrayal as Anita in the original film, is one of several changes Spielberg and Kushner make to the film. 

The first version's casting errors, which included white actors playing Puerto Ricans, have been addressed. Arthur Laurents' original book has also been reworked by Kushner. In 1958, the Upper West Side was filled with damaged and half-destroyed structures. 

To make space for the swanky Lincoln Center, run-down tenements are being destroyed. The Jets, dubbed "the last of the can't-make-it Caucasians" by a cop, face off against the Sharks, a gang of Puerto Rican immigrants desperate for a taste of the good life. Bernardo leads the Sharks, while the Riff leads the Jets. 

We know it can't end well when Bernandro's 18-year-old sister Maria and Riff's closest friend Tony fall in love, but until it does, their romance is a thing of beauty. They stumble into each other during a dance. As if guided by some otherworldly gravitational pull, their eyes lock across the floor as they glide toward each other. He notices her first, but she leans in first for a kiss. 

Tony aspires to be a better man at whatever costs. He's recently been released from prison and now works at Valentina's pharmacy. He knows what he's capable of and is determined to stay out of trouble at all costs. He even goes out of his way to prevent his friends from fighting. 

These young guys, on the other hand, are trapped in a destructive cycle of violence, a lack of opportunity and education, and unbridled hatred. Their confined lives find release in tearing down others, particularly immigrants. West Side Story makes us think about who is an outsider and what it means to be at home. 

Bernardo's girlfriend Anita, played by Ariana DeBose, is one of the most memorable characters in the film. Anita is seductive, powerful, and wise. Her skills on the dance floor are dazzling, but her radiance fades as the movie progresses, and she's brutalized by the conclusion. Bernardo and Riff are played by David Alvarez and Mike Faist, respectively. 

The riff is given intelligence by Faist that hints at the life this young man could have had if his circumstances had been different. Ansel Elgort as Tony and Rachel Zegler as Maria is at the core of the intense emotion and action. 

He doesn't stand out as much as she does, but they both have a nice artlessness to their parts. You truly want Tony and Maria to live happily ever after, despite the obstacles. Simultaneously blending stylization and reality, Spielberg and Kaminski create a masterpiece. 

Justin Peck's choreography is energizing and dynamic. Especially the first song. The film opens with the camera flying over a demolition zone, heightening the tragedy of the Jets and Sharks' turf fights. Because the cause for which they are fighting has already been reduced to ashes. 

The concept of relocating Romeo and Juliet to New York came from director-choreographer Jerome Robbins. West Side Story continues to fascinate audiences after all these decades. 


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