Review: West Side Story
In 1960's New York, two rival gangs, the Sharks and the Jets fight for territory. They come from different backgrounds, the Jets are all white, lead by Riff. (Mike Faist) They come from poor families and are racists against anyone with skin darker than theirs. The Sharks, lead by Bernardo (David Alvarez) are Puerto Ricans trying to make it in the big city and are constantly at odds with the Jets. Bernadro's sister Maria (Rachel Zegler) meets and immediately falls for Tony,(Ansel Elgort) a jet fresh out of prison who no longer wants to live the way he did before. And this makes tensions rise even further.
I'm not sure why I spent so much time explaining the plot when everyone knows what West Side Story was about. I guess I liked how much the film put the majority of the antagonism on the Jets. Growing up with the original, I heard so many "both sides are bad" arguments, and to me, one side was always vastly worse.
Truthfully, I've never loved this musical. I wish it was just sung through because the parts in between the music are where the film loses me. Like the original movie, Anita, this time played by Ariana DeBose is the standout. She and Rachel Zegler were amazing. I was instantly invested in both women and every time they weren't on screen, I wished they were.
You would never guess Steven Spielberg hadn't directed a musical before, because he's excellent at it. The direction, costumes, and the leading ladies are the high points of the film. It's shot beautifully. He also makes the choice to have all the Spanish dialogue in the film unsubtitled. Which is an idea I love for an American film. I wish schools promoted Spanish at an earlier age because it is spoken so widely here. That said, because my Spanish is garbage, there were large parts of dialogue I didn't understand and it bummed me out.. That's 100% a personal thing towards me, someone with only basic Spanish.
So is this for you? I liked it a lot better than the original. Maybe you will too. If you're a fan, this version is definitely one you should see. Thankfully all the blackface is gone. I will point out that Anita's attempted assault scene is done a lot more realistically and was extremely uncomfortable to watch. I've always hated that part of this show.