Film Review – West Side Story (2021)

Title – West Side Story (2021)

Director – Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park) 

Cast – Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Rita Moreno, Mike Faist

Plot – A musical drama exploring the rivalry of New York City street gangs the Jets and the Sharks as a forbidden love between Jet member Tony (Elgort) and the Sharks connected Maria (Zegler) threatens to cause irreparable damage between the two groups. 

“Life matters even more than love”

Review by Eddie on 25/01/2022

I’m not sure the world needed another iteration of Arthur Laurents tale of warring New York City gangs and forbidden love that threatens to turn their sparring into something far more detrimental, a sentiment that appears to be on the right track when one takes a look at astoundingly poor global box office haul of Steven Spielberg’s long delayed feature, but there’s no denying that the bearded masters first foray into the cinematic musical is an impressively stage and conducted affair that is sure to please long term West Side Story fans and newbies alike. 

A passion project for Spielberg who has been a long term fan of Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise’s 1961 original that conquered the Oscar’s and audiences imaginations on release that has lead to it becoming one of the most revered movie musicals of all time, Spielberg’s Story is a stunning feat of filmmaking brilliance thanks to the director’s famed eye for spectacle and his collaboration with long term cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, with the two talented souls ensuring every scene of Spielberg’s update is a feast for the eyes and senses. 

Tailor made for the big screen, it’s a shame many have forgone the chance to see Story on the big screen with it likely to lack that added pizzazz and magic that the big screen can provide when many see it on home release, as when you take the technical feats away and the incredibly well designed sets and set-ups are unable to be enjoyed on the ideal format, Story’s modern day reimagining’s weaknesses in its now dated story arc and lack of emotional punches will only become more apparent. 

Centered around the seemingly doomed romance between New York native and Jet gang member Tony (played by the now very low key and shrouded in controversy Ansel Elgort) and newcomer Rachel Zegler’s Puerto Rican immigrant Maria, Story’s at one time controversial plot line has lost some of its power in the modern day climate and Zegler and Elgort don’t share any form of special spark or chemistry to make Story fly like the best musical’s manage to do. 

When you look outside of the central plot line and performances there’s some added bonuses to be found in the film, particularly in the awards worthy performance of Ariana DeBose as the feisty Anita and a lovely supporting turn from the original films Anita Rita Moreno, who gets a handful of memorable moments as Tony’s mentor and friend Valentina, while a few of the films song and dance numbers including America and Gee, Officer Krupke are some of the most enjoyable cinematic moments of 2021, proving once more, even if we didn’t need any further evidence, that even Spielberg not being perfect is still miles ahead of most fellow directors. 

Final Say – 

It doesn’t have the central spark between its lovers or emotional punch one might’ve hoped for but Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story is still a fine example of cinematic musical magic that is likely to play a major part in the awards season. 

4 salt mounds out of 5  

12 responses to “Film Review – West Side Story (2021)

  1. We’ll just have to disagree on this one, which I hated. I’m a huge fan of the 1961 film, and my very favorite scene in the entire genre of musicals is “Cool.” I had no interest in a re-make, but it was “family time” so I sat down to watch it. Didn’t know who any of these people were (except for Moreno of course), didn’t even know it was a Spielberg film until afterwards. However. I didn’t need all the added bits, especially the added dialogue. I like Spanish sub-titled if you please. As my kid said, “they all look alike” (and before anyone goes crazy, that was about the Jets). Tony was creepy (also seconded by my kid), they RUINED my “Cool” scene, in fact none of the choreography could hold a candle to 1961’s, and I thought the “Krupke” scene was really awful (especially compared to ’61, but also all on its own). While it was a nice gesture to include Moreno, her part would’ve ended on the cutting-room floor if I’d been editing because it contributes nothing. The best part of the evening was when we all finally agreed to turn it off without suffering through to the end.

    • Thanks for sharing mate.

      I only watched the original for the first time last year and really enjoyed it, I don’t think this film is better than the original but I did appreciate a lot of the technical skill behind it and was glad I enjoyed it more than you.

      Be interesting to see how it’s regarded in the years to come.

  2. There’s a place for both : the Wise and the Spielberg versions. Two different contexts, two different approach, two different visual choreographies, two visions of their time. Two brilliant manners.
    I’m totally on your side to defend this film.

  3. Pingback: Film Review – West Side Story (2021) – Nelsapy·

  4. Pingback: 2022 Oscar Predictions | Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)·

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