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West Side Story movie Review

Gentrification, immigration, ambition, race, class, identity, love, violence, friendship, family, tragedy, spectacular set-piece song and dance numbers, it’s almost too much for one film to contain and the West Side Story has that And yet Steven Spielberg, working with a screenplay by Tony Kushner, who the New York Times described as “America’s most important living playwright”, and with Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, pulls it off. The 74-year-old director weaves the myriad threads into a dazzling, euphoric musical, which soars, but never unhinges itself from the grim truths it speaks of.

West Side Story 2021

The story isn’t new. Sixty years ago, directors Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins made West Side Story, which was nominated for 11 Oscars and won 10 of them. The Broadway musical with a score by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, which the film was based on, premiered in 1957. And the source material is even older, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which here is transposed to Manhattan in the mid-50s.

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West Side Story 2021

And yet this tale of star-crossed lovers resonates just as strongly. When Valentina, a character who’s been added to this version, sings, ‘We’ll find a new way of living, a way of forgiving,’ her lament hits hard. The swoony romance never obscures the sting in the story. Valentina, played by a superb Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar for her role as Anita in the original film, is one among several updates Spielberg and Kushner make to this film. The casting mistakes of the first version, which had white actors playing Puerto Ricans, have been corrected. Kushner has also revised Arthur Laurents’s original book.

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This film begins with decrepit and half-destroyed buildings in the Upper West Side in 1958. Shabby tenements are being bulldozed to make way for the spiffy Lincoln Center. Here the Jets, a gang described by a police officer as the last of the can’t-make-it-Caucasians, go up against the Sharks, a gang of Puerto Rican immigrants, who are desperately chasing the good life. The Sharks are led by Bernardo and the Jets by the Riff. When Bernandro’s 18-year-old sister Maria and Riff’s closest friend Tony fall in love, we know that it can’t end well, but until it lasts, their romance is a thing of glory. They meet at a dance.

West Side Story 2021

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Eyes lock across the floor and they move toward each other, as though guided by some other-worldly gravitational pull. He sees her first but, she leans in for a kiss first. Tony wants desperately to be a better man. He’s just come out of prison and now works at Valentina’s drug store. He knows what he’s capable of and wants, at all costs, to avoid trouble again. He even tries to keep his friends from fighting. But these young men are caught in a toxic cycle of violence, a lack of opportunity and education, and free-flowing hate. Their circumscribed lives find release in knocking others down, namely the immigrants.

West Side Story 2021

West Side Story asks us to consider, who is an outsider and what is home. One of the most memorable characters in the film is Bernardo’s girlfriend Anita, played by the brilliant Ariana DeBose. Anita is sexy, strong and wise. Her moves on the dance floor are mesmerizing, but her sparkle dims through the film and by the end, she’s been thoroughly brutalized. David Alvarez as Bernardo and Mike Faist as the Riff, also deliver strong performances. Faist gives the Riff an intelligence that alludes to the life this young man might have had if his circumstances were different.

West Side Story 2021

And at the centre of the swirling emotion and action, are Ansel Elgort as Tony and debutant Rachel Zegler as Maria. He doesn’t pop off the screen as she does, but both bring a lovely artlessness to their roles. Despite the odds, you desperately want Tony and Maria to live happily ever after. Spielberg and Kaminski seamlessly blend stylization with realism. The choreography by Justin Peck is dynamic and electrifying. Especially the opening number. The film begins with the camera sailing over a demolition site, which renders the turf wars between the Jets and Sharks even more tragic.

Because what they are fighting for, has already been reduced to rubble. Director-choreographer Jerome Robbins first had the idea, of transposing Romeo and Juliet to New York. And all these decades later, West Side Story continues to enthral. You can watch the film at a theatre near you. Don’t forget to wear a mask.

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West Side Story 2021 full movie download.

West Side Story 2021 full movie download

West Side Story 2021 full movie download

West Side Story 2021 full movie download

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