Can 'West Side Story' reach greater heights than In The Heights? Or will it be as 'cat' as Cats? With Steven Spielberg directing, and a noticeable absence of James Corden, I think you can guess.
West Side Story is always an interesting play to me because I’ve only ever seen it done twice. On stage, performed by a 4th-year class about 8 years ago, and then also on Glee (obviously). So, when this movie was announced I was interested to see what Steven (we are on a first-name basis, I swear) would do with it. It is a classic after all. Can the new one become a classic too?
The basic story is based on Romeo and Juliet but set in the mid-1950s Upper West Side of New York. We see the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds. The main character, Tony (Ansel Elgort), a former member of the Jets and best friend of the gang's leader, Riff (Mike Faist), falls in love with Maria (Rachel Zegler), the sister of Bernardo (David Alvarez), the leader of the Sharks.
After seeing the movie, the biggest point to talk about is simply the magic the movie makes you feel. This is a notorious Spielberg trait when it comes to movies. It just captures you into the story. The movie itself feels like both a remaster of a 50’s movie, but all the while clearly being made in 2021.
Outside of the known quality of Steven behind the camera, there is a whole cast of incredibly talented actors in front of it. Making their big-screen debuts are Rachel Zegler and David Alvarez. Zegler, who plays Maria, has since picked up a Golden Globe nomination for her performance, as has co-star Ariana DeBose. That really speaks for itself. The whole cast has natural chemistry and this combined with the really great performances creates a group of characters you can really get behind.
Spielberg and a great cast alone is a great movie, but it’s truly beautiful too. The sweeping landscapes and colourful dance scenes just give out such vibrant energy. The fantastic set building creates a realistic environment that you really feel at home in.
Lastly, when you think it can’t get any better, we are treated to non-stop bangers throughout. Each song is performed beautifully and is pretty much a guarantee for next year’s Spotify Wrapped.
Overall, West Side Story is an instant classic, in both feeling and quality. I loved it, if you love musicals you’ll love it. If you only like musicals, it’s certainly a great watch. And if you don’t like musicals, well then fight your demons and sort your life out.
Director: Steven Spielberg (Jaws, ET, Catch Me If You Can)
Tony Kushner (Munich, Lincoln)
Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver, The Fault in Our Stars)
Rachel Zegler (Feature Debut)
Ariana DeBose (The Prom, Hamilton)
David Alvarez (Feature Debut)
Rita Moreno (West Side Story(1961), The King and I)
Brian d'Arcy James (Spotlight, Shrek the Musical?!?)
Corey Stoll (Ant-Man, Midnight in Paris)
Mike Faist (The Atlantic City Story)
Running Time: 2h 36m
Genre: Crime, Drama, Musical