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Film Review: West Side Story (2021)

12:00 December 21, 2021
By: David Vicari

Director Steven Spielberg's remake of the classic musical West Side Story is a lively adaptation of the Broadway musical and actually superior to the 1961 Best Picture Winner. This remake's screenplay is by Tony Kushner and, while being faithful to the source material, he effectively adds more dimension to the characters. Of course, the main ingredient is still intact—the wonderful music of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's beautiful lyrics. And Best Supporting Actress Winner for the original film, Rita Moreno, is given a very nice role in this version.

West Side Story is Romeo and Juliet updated to the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York of the 1950s. A white street gang known as The Jets has a rivalry with the Puerto Rican gang, The Sharks, from the other side of town. Things get complicated when ex-Jets member Tony (Ansel Elgort) falls for Maria (Rachel Zegler), who is the sister of The Sharks leader, Bernardo (David Alvarez).

The 1961 movie is good, but a major drawback was having white actors in brown face playing Puerto Ricans. Spielberg corrects this in his version by casting actors of Hispanic heritage.

All the actors here are phenomenal. Zegler and Elgort are perfect as the star-crossed lovers. Also very memorable are Alvarez, Mike Faist as Jets leader Riff, and Ariana DeBose as Bernardo's girlfriend Anita. It's DeBose who does a splashy rendition of the song "America," and that right there is worth the price of admission.

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