Starring Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana Debose, Mike Faist, David Alvarez, Corey Stoll, Rita Moreno, Brian d’Arcy James
In 1950s New York, the Sharks and the Jets are constantly at war with each other. Why? Because they look different from one another; the Jets being lower-class whites and the Sharks poor immigrants from Puerto Rico. Tony (Elgort) is the leader of the Jets, or he was once, but after a stint in prison, he’s just trying to keep his head above water. When he meets Maria (Zegler), sister to the leader of the Sharks, they fall in love, and what was petty strife quickly becomes tragic à la Romeo and Juliet. West Side Story is an iconic musical and my first question was why remake a classic. Spielberg proved me wrong on that count. This West Side story might not match the stature of the 1961 film, yet, in many ways, it improves upon it. The Spanish-speaking cast truly make a difference and Spielberg proves a natural in his first attempt at a musical. West Side Story (2021) somehow manages some grit and authenticity to go with the more traditional artificial stylings of classic movie musicals. The dancing is great, the sweeping camera movements, performances, set pieces are all great. All in all, I’d call Spielberg’s West Side Story a rousing success, despite disappointing at the box-office. My issues with this film apply to every version of the hit play and its adaptations. It’s long, it feels long, and not every song is enjoyable. Some songs like “Maria” thrill me and others like “Gee, Officer Krupke” have me checking my watch.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-