West Side Story
Starring Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Corey Stoll, Rita Moreno, Ariana DeBose , David Alvarez, Mike Faist
Steven Spielberg’s musical remake “West Side Story” leads the pack, offering a modern update on the tarnished Oscar-winning best picture of 1961. Full disclosure: Spielberg’s “West Side Story” was my and likely other non-Broadway fans’ entry point into the material. Having never experienced the Broadway show, nor the original film, or even heard a single song, my assessment on the remake is solely based on what’s between the on-screen credits. The musical opens with a bunch of rowdy white boys dressed like Abercrombie & Fitch models, eagerly wanting to fight with the Puerto Rican community.
The leader of this pompous group of trouble makers is the reformed Tony (Ansel Elgort) who instantly falls in love with Maria (Rachel Zegler), from across the imaginary enemy lines. The ragtag gangs call themselves Jets and Sharks, although it’s never explained why. It’s “Romeo and Juliet” under a different name, with musical lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
Stops the narrative and plot to sing a song, then continues when it’s finished, taking about 45 minutes of story and stretching it over two hours.
This musical, like half the others, stops the narrative and plot to sing a song, then continues when it’s finished. Some musicals like “Chicago,” or even this year’s “Cyrano,” understand that everyone watching a movie isn’t necessarily a musical or Broadway fan and have one song not only give you vast amounts of information and character building but can even span the length of days or weeks.
The fact that the Spanish dialogue isn’t subtitled is the least of this film’s problems. For those simply looking at this film without prior knowledge, its long running time of more than two hours only makes you care less about Elgort’s Tony.
Spielberg filled most of the major roles with professional singers and dancers who — lucky for him and us — also can act. It’s not enough, however, to catch non-fans and left me pondering why Spielberg and all his resources would choose this remake over all the voiceless stories he could have made.
If you are already a fan of the material, then you already love it before you buy a ticket, for those enduring their first experiance, there is little here to enjoy purely from a cinematic stance.