WEST SIDE STORY (2021) – My rating: 8/10

West Side Story 2021 Official Poster.jpgWest Side Story is a romantic musical drama directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg from a screenplay by Tony Kushner. It is the second feature-length adaptation of the 1957 stage musical of the same name. Rita Moreno who starred in the 1961 film adaptation, also served as an executive producer, alongside Tony Kushner.  The film features music composed by Leonard Bernstein, with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Originally, I wasn’t interested in seeing a remake of West Side Story but since it is Oscar-nominated, I decided to rewatch it.  The music and acting were excellent.  It turned out to be a very good remake!

In 1957, the Jets, a gang of Italian youths, fight the Puerto Rican Sharks for control of San Juan Hill on Manhattan’s West Side. Officer Krupke (Brian d’Arcy James) and Lieutenant Schrank (Corey Stoll) break up the brief skirmish, telling both the Jets and the Sharks that their conflict is pointless since the neighborhood will soon be demolished to make way for Lincoln Center. The gangs are too proud to care, and Jet leader Riff (Mike Faist) proposes a “rumble” (fight) between the two gangs. He approaches his friend Tony (Ansel Elgort), who is on parole, for help. Tony refuses, committed to turning over a new leaf with the help of Valentina (Rita Moreno), the Puerto Rican owner of Doc’s general store. Meanwhile, Maria (Rachel Zegler), Shark leader Bernardo’s sister, is betrothed to his friend Chino (Josh Andrés Rivera) but yearns for independence. At a local dance, Tony and Maria meet and fall in love. This angers Bernardo (David Alvarez), who agrees to Riff’s terms for a rumble if Tony attends. Tony voices his love for Maria and the couple meets on Maria’s fire escape, promising to see each other the next day.

Bernardo and his girlfriend Anita (Ariana DeBose) feud over life in New York compared to Puerto Rico, with Anita believing in the American Dream in spite of the pessimistic Bernardo. The police interrogate the Jets about the rumble, but they deny any having any knowledge about it. Tony takes Maria on a date to the Cloisters in Upper Manhattan. He reveals he was imprisoned for a year after he nearly beat a rival gang member to death, which scared him into reforming. Maria makes Tony promise to stop the rumble and they pledge their love to one another. Tony tries to convince Riff to call off the rumble by stealing his newly-bought gun, but the Jets steal it back. Lieutenant Schrank orders officer Krupke and the police to stop the rumble. Despite the police and Tony’s efforts, the rumble takes place and Bernardo fatally stabs Riff. Tony, in a fit of rage, stabs Bernardo and kills him. The gangs flee when the police arrive, while Chino finds Riff’s gun. The rest is history.

West Side Story is a modern-day Romero and Juliet.  If you like sad, this is your ticket.  One would think it should be hard to see such a sad, and hopeless story with such a sad and hopeless outcome.  The truth of the matter is things have not changed.  Racism continues to run rampant, there are still existing street gangs and over-the-top crime in NYC.  Putting it all to music, dance and acting do not make me feel any better.  I will admit, the songs were beautiful and applicable to the circumstances, the dancing was cheerful and well-choreographed, and the singing was absolutely outstanding.  However, the story still sucks but of course, this is only my opinion.  West Side Story is a classic that has stood the test of time.  It is even entertaining but oh so sad and oh so hopeless.  Maybe in the future, someone will come up with a sequel that will help offset some of this despair.  As of February 14, 2022, West Side Story has grossed $37.3 million in the United States and Canada, and $29.8 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $67.1 million. The film needs an estimated $300 million to break even.  On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 93% of 347 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 8.30/10. The website’s consensus reads, “Steven Spielberg’s  West Side Story presents a new look at the classic musical that lives up to its beloved forebear – and in some respects might even surpass it.”  West Side Story is streaming on Prime Video — Check It Out!

[BELFAST is Oscar-nominated at the 94th Academy Awards for BEST: Picture, Supporting Actress, Director, Cinematography, Costume Design, Production Design, and Sound — Totaling 7 Oscar Nominations]