Director Steven Spielberg is a legendary filmmaker, and his repertoire including iconic adventure films to science-fiction and historical war dramas. But he hasn't tackled a musical movie until now with "West Side Story," and he knocks this telling of the classic star-crossed lovers out of the park.
"West Side Story" is one of the most awe-inspiring movies of 2021 with breathtaking cinematography, wonderful acting and powerful choreography.
Steven Spielberg's "West Side Story" | Official Trailer | 20th Century Studios www.youtube.com
Classic tale comes back to life
Most people know the story by now, but the whole point of this new film is to share the unforgettable story with a new generation. There are two male street gangs fighting for control of the slums: the Jetts, which consists of Caucasians who never knew love until they met their brothers in this gang led by Riff (Mike Faist), and the Sharks, Puerto Ricans who immigrated to New York to start a new life led by Bernardo (David Alvarez). After a fateful encounter, former Jett member Tony (Ansel Elgort) falls in love at first sight with the Sharks leader's sister Maria (Rachel Zegler).
Memorable songs like "Someday," "Tonight," "America" and more are back and bigger than before thanks to technological advances, larger-than-life choreography and gorgeous costumes.
At two hours and thirty-six minutes, the movie flies by and there's never a wasted moment on the screen.
For her feature film debut, Zegler makes a great first impression. She perfectly embodies the passion and innocence of Maria. And going forward, all eyes are on Zegler as movie-goers prepare to see her in the "Shazam!" sequel. Ariana DeBose, who plays Bernardo's girlfriend Anita, also deserves all the praise for nailing Anita's vivacious attitude and bold personality.
One character deserved better
Jett-wannabe Anybodys, who is now a trans man portrayed by nonbinary actor Iris Menas, is thankfully given more visibility than past "West Side Story" productions. But throughout the film, they're seen creeping around the foreground following the Jetts and trying to be "one of the guys," which makes the atmosphere feel more awkward than intriguing. So unfortunately, any attention to the character feels like a fourth-or-lower priority in the film.
Overall, you need to see this
Even though it's been 60 years since "West Side Story" first enchanted viewers, the 2021 cast and crew prove that there will always be untapped good in the musical for generations to come.
See "West Side Story" in theaters starting Friday, December 10. Follow the reporter Samantha Incorvaia on Twitter at @s_incorvaia or on her podcast Plot Devices.