A man and a woman from rival gangs fall in love, but
tensions only grow between their respective friends.
West Side Story (2021)
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Tony Kushner
Starring Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose,
David Alvarez, Rita Moreno, Mike Faist, Corey Stoll,
Josh Andrés Rivera, Brian d'Arcy James
Remake of 1961's West Side Story
Based on the stage play by Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein,
and Stephen Sondheim
Inspired by the stage play Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare
It takes a lot of balls to remake an American classic like West Side Story, even if you're Steven Spielberg. Regardless of my thoughts about the original film, which are largely negative, it is an iconic musical that has been woven into America's pop culture history. And yet, Spielberg was likely the only director who could've achieved what he did with his remake. It's better than the original, by a mile. And I'm not alone in thinking that. This film is getting showered with critical praise and is likely going to be a big Oscar contender. It could even have a genuine shot at Best Picture, which would make it one of the few remakes to do so.
The story is the same, with only slight deviations. The cast is incredible, particularly Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler, who play our star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria. Their chemistry is believable and they manage to convince the audience of their instant love. Spielberg used actual Hispanic actors for the Sharks, instead of unconvincing brownface like the 1961 film. So that helps. Ultimately, this version of the film just feels tighter and more sincere than the original. The peacock-dancing has been reduced and the intensity of the gangs has been increased. All of the songs have a different sort of energy behind them, as well.
To make a long story short, it makes more sense. This feels like a proper reimagining. Spielberg, genius that he is, brings this story to a new generation. It's amazing he was able to pull that off. Remaking classics almost never works, and this was a ten-time Oscar winner with one hell of a legacy. I'm glad I can enjoy this story somewhat now.