West Side Story Review: Steven Spielberg Celebrates Music and Love, But…

West Side Story, an American musical romantic, directed by Steven Spielberg with a screenplay by Tony Kushner, is out now in theatres. The film is based on a book by Arthur Laurents and a 1957 stage musical drama of the same name. It stars Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose, David Alvazez, Mike Faist, Rita Moreno, Brian d’Arcy James, Corey Stoll, and Josh Andrés Rivera.

The music of Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story is by Leonard Bernstein and choreography by Justin Peck. The duration of the film is 156 minutes at least. Is it worth your time? Please read our review to know the same.

West Side Story Review: Plot Summary

There are two rival gangs in West Side Story – Jets and Sharks. The Jets are Americans led by Riff (Mike Faist), and the Sharks are Puerto Ricans led by Bernardo (David Alvarez). The story is set in the 1950s where racism was at its peak, and the Americans were not happy with the Puerto Ricans in their city. Along with the hatred in the lanes, there’s love blooming between Tony and María (played by Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler).

Tony is a former Jets member and a good friend with Riff. María is Bernardo’s younger sister. So it’s people related to rival groups who dared to fall in love. Their love can either turn hatred into love or worsen the situation already out of hand. Spielberg shows how their story turns out in those 156 minutes.

West Side Story Review: Discussion

The long and continuous opening shot from the top of the city was stunning. The camera pans to some ditches and walls, as members of the Jets gang emerge and break into a dance. They dance and sing about their glory for at least 3-4 minutes. The Sharks gang then arrives, sparking a brawl between the two. The fights, like the dance, are choreographed in sync.

The entire sequence reminded me of Shah Rukh Khan’s 2000 film Josh’s song “Sailaru Sailare“. I mean, two gangs clash while dancing and singing to assert their authority over a piece of territory. We’ve often seen it in Hindi films, but Josh had the most striking resemblance. WSS reminded me of more than one Hindi film (presentation wise). So many sequences were directed in the same way as we’ve seen in Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela to Ishaqzaade.

While I was aware that the plot of West Side Story inspired these Hindi films to some level, I was astonished at how similar the execution was! Peacocks from Ram Lelaa were the elements missing in Tony-Maria’s sneaky window romantic meet-ups. But is their romance as passionate and Ram and Leela? I don’t think it gets any close to Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone’s electrifying chemistry. Maria appeared to me as the weakest character in the film.

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Nonetheless, I loved watching West Side Story to some extent. Ansel Elgort, Ariana DeBose, Mike Faist, and David Alvarez excelled in their roles. Ariana DeBose owns up the screen when she speaks and dances. Mike Faist as Riff overshadowed every scene, even in the presence of 20 gang members and the lead lover boy Tony. Whether Riff smirks, kicks or dances, you can’t take your eyes off him. Rachel Zegler also did a fair job as Maria, but her singing voice bothered me.

For a reason, Leonard Bernstein is a legend, and his music will win your heart. Every dance routine and the fight scene was remarkable, and choreographer Justin Peck did a tremendous job. Janusz Kamiński faces a difficult task in depicting every twisted dance form, complicated emotion, and rawness of hate and love through his lenses. His cinematography is spectacular in every second frame.

West Side Story: Final Thoughts

Overall, Steven Spielberg’s version of West Side Story is a delightful experience. While certain scenes look exactly similar to several Hindi movies, I enjoyed watching what’s been shown. The climax, on the other hand, was underwhelming. However, if you enjoy musicals and want to witness Spielberg’s take on the genre, you can give it a watch.

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West Side Story Review: Steven Spielberg presents a pleasant musical with an ending that doesn't leave an impact.


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