West Side Story (2021)
Pssst, want to check out West Side Story in our new look?
See all comments
It took me about half of Spielberg's West Side Story to stop myself wondering if the original could suffer a remake. Sure, it's Spielberg, so it's slick and there's a lot of money on the screen, and of course it looks more modern than Bob Wise's 1961 version. But it's still a period piece and kind of old-fashioned, and while it's not as iconic as, say, The Sound of Music (which you can't imagine without Julie Andrews, whereas it's good to have an option where white people don't play Puerto Ricans), it's still pretty up there in the pantheon of musicals on film. But I love Sondheim, even when scored by someone else, so here we were. The second half won me over for various reasons. Mainly, Rita Moreno as the store owner has an expanded part and isn't just an Easter Egg. She even gets a song! Obviously, it's well put together (and my distrust of latter-day Spielberg is usually connected to his veneered proficiency which holds me at a distance), and he expands this 20-block world pretty cleverly. He moves some songs around to make the tragedy more ironic. Visually, I feel like Romeo and Juliet is better referenced. It's a little harder-edged than the 1961 film (thus closer to what you might see on Broadway), not only in terms of showing racism, but in having Anybodys an overtly trans character (and played by trans actor Ezra Menas). It makes the film more uncomfortable and you're less likely to take sides. The question "Are you a Jet or a Shark?" shouldn't come up after viewing. Having the Puerto Ricans speak a lot of Spanish is a bold move too, and while I know the story and am good at context clues, I wouldn't have minded subtitles here and there - it contributed to my at-times cold reception. Funny story about the theater audience: One lady shouted out "OH MY GOD!" during the tragic climax, which made me realize I often take certainly cultural touchstones for granted, but for some, it will be their first experience with the musical and, uhm, with Shakespeare, I guess!
So faithful that it ends up being both unnecessary and more than a bit antiquated. The last act builds enough momentum to work quite well but a lot of it just... doesn't.
Steven Spielberg out here doing the impossible.
to see which of your friends have seen this movie!
In 3 official lists
View all lists this movie is in
This movie ranks #50 in IMDb's 2020s Top 50
This movie ranks #155 in Golden Globe Award - Best Motion Picture
This movie ranks #584 in Academy Award - Best Picture Nominees