WEST SIDE STORY
Starring: Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose, Mike Faist
Original Screenplay by Tony Kushner & Direction by Steven Spielberg
Language: English (and some prolonged Spanish scenes)
You cannot say that you love musicals until you’ve watched West Side Story! It’s the perfect film: featuring BRILLIANT acting, excellent costume and makeup design, not to mention the world-famous soundtrack. I saw this film in December of 2021, and have watched it many times since then. I am ashamed to admit that I watched the newer version first, but now, having seen the 1961 version, I can say that the recent version lives up to the high standard of the original. Whenever I watch the movie, I am left in a sense of awe, amazed at how mankind has been able to create such a masterpiece (you can tell that I love this movie).
We cannot discuss a musical without first mentioning the soundtrack! Apart from a few word changes (which I don’t think were necessary), the soundtrack essentially stayed true to Bernstein’s original version. The songs are still so well-known today, and having them introduced to a newer, younger audience means that hopefully they will live on. That brings me onto the vocals! Wow, can the actors SING! The vocal quality of everyone in the production was perfect: every time I listen to these songs I’m left in a state of pure delirium. I still get chills whenever I hear the new version of ‘Maria’.
Visually, the film is an absolute treat! I loved watching the dances, and they were much more refined than the dances in the original version. These were even more fun to watch considering the excellent standard of costume design: Paul Tazewell really excelled in that regard. Just watching the twirling of the bright coloured frocks in the song ‘America’ was nothing short of mesmerising. Everything was so thoughtfully considered, and what I absolutely LOVED was that the colour discrepancies in the new costumes worn by the separate gangs was so prominent: it added a whole new layer to this already very complex story.
The best thing about this cast was that none of the actors were incredibly well known, and so we got to see some fresh, new talent! Hollywood will thrive if actors like these continue to grace our screens. Although Ansel Elgort underperformed relative to his co-stars, seeing him transition from Baby Driver, a role which he barely had to speak for, to the main character in the remake of a classic musical was so great to see! I would never have guessed that he could sing. Not to mention Rachel Zegler, who captured the innocent and simultaneously rebellious personality of Maria perfectly. Whilst all of the more minor characters acted perfectly fine, Ariana DeBose was the absolute star of the show. Her Academy Award for ‘Best Supporting Actress’ was completely deserved. She perfectly captured the role of Anita, and she was able to act flawlessly in all situations: she was for sure the MOST versatile character in the production. From twirling around effortlessly in the dance scenes to being broken after her fiancée's death, she really encapsulated the essence of her character.
I think you can tell from my tone in this review that I LOVED this movie! If this isn’t a 10/10, I don’t know what is. If you haven’t already, watch it as soon as you have the chance: you won’t regret it.