Entertainment

West Side Story Review: Spielberg’s Version Wasn’t a Radical Revisionist Success

Dir: Steven Spielberg. Starring: Ansel Elgort, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, Rita Moreno, Rachel Zegler. 12A, 156 minutes.

There is a tragic irony at the heart of Steven Spielberg West story. Up until a week ago, I argued that there was little point in a pristine copy of such a classic. And then we lost the man who could write about love so fluently that it could be summed up in its entirety, all in one simple phrase: “take my hand and we’ll go. half way.” Keep the words of Stephen Sondheim – clear, beautiful and soaring – hugs your chest, and you’re halfway to understanding the depth of the feeling West story can be provocative. Spielberg’s film is the ultimate tribute to Sondheim’s work. If it achieves anything, let it remind us of exactly who the world lost when the composer passed away last Friday.

The musical, originally staged by Jerome Robbins in 1957 and made into a film four years later, is a reimagined play. Romeo and Juliet which recounts the Montagues and Capulets as two gangs at war in New York City – the white immigrant Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks. Two star-crossed lovers, Tony and Maria, try to keep something pure in all the uncontrollable violence that surrounds them. But stay away from those eternal problems of love and hope and the story around West story more and more complicated. Spielberg’s adaptation, in turn, was hit with an unpredictable burden of expectations.

For decades, Puerto Ricans have had to contend with being one of the few times they are represented in mainstream culture, while being reduced to violent, strange, and stigmatized stereotypes. pushed aside. Notably, the 1961 film only had one Puerto Rican star in its cast, Rita Moreno (who won an Academy Award for her performance as Anita, Maria’s best friend), while both she and the others. The rest of the Sharks were created to artificially darken their skin. make up. Any arguments for the need for a new one West story necessarily stem from the desire to right these wrongs. And there’s a form of justice to be found in how well Spielberg’s film works as an instant star producer for the Latin cast.

Rachel Zegler, as Maria, closely emulates Natalie Wood’s sparkling, holy presence – quite a feat for a debut performance. Anita got an extension in the story, ahead of Broadway’s Ariana DeBose, who seemed to fill the entire film with her kaleidoscopic emotions. DeBose delivers everything with precision, whether a word, a kick, or a high note. Moreno herself returns as the reimagined character of the drugstore owner, now known as Valentina. Mostly so that she can send the number “Somewhere” as a way for the film to respectfully and properly place the flowers at her feet.

On the Jets’ side, the balance of talent certainly doesn’t come from Tony, played by Ansel Elgort on screen. His presence in the film was already an uncomfortable one, after the sex accusations was done against him last year (he turned them down), but even if you judge Elgort’s performance in total isolation, his even vocal distribution is totally off-putting. when compared to a highly expressive, energetic theatrical professional cast. Get Mike Faist as Riff, the leader of the Jets, who’s so dramatic that you’d half suspect he’s simply on fire.

That said, anyone who enters Spielberg’s West story Expect radical revisionism to find exactly the same themes as before, only now repeated a little more forcefully. Its story has always been about assimilated children, and the poor children of white immigrants being turned away from the recently arrived Puerto Ricans. But now it appears to show a group of Jets vandalizing a mural with the Puerto Rican flag – in case anyone in the background can’t catch up.

Literally in Tony Kushner’s script even creates new problems – the film’s climax scene about attempted rape, now even more brutal than before, makes a decision that explicitly excludes women white skin from the crime of what is happening on the screen. What reason? They have many roles in upholding white supremacy. Tony, often presented as a peaceful soul, is given a violent backstory to test the audience’s sympathy for him. Even the film’s most aggressive creative decision, to have the Latin characters switch correctly between Spanish and English as they speak, with Spanish without subtitles, technically doesn’t work. must be new – Lin-Manuel Miranda was hired to do the same for the 2009 theatrical revival.

(20th Century Fox)

There was never a doubt that Spielberg would be able to direct a handsome musical. Justin Peck’s choreography admits it doesn’t exist West story devoid of snaps and glimmers, yet finds its very own rhythm, captured by Spielberg’s camera with an elegant dynamic. The director’s cinematographer, Janusz Kamiński, once again uses light and shadow to stunning effect. In fact, the single shots and moments surpass what the 1961 film achieved – there’s one particularly stunning image of Riff’s face, captured so that the light accentuates a scar. small on his cheekbones. Is this an act of violence not seen in the past? All that technical success only complicates an unanswerable question: how can a movie look this good, feel so emotional, and still be flawed?

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/reviews/west-side-story-spielberg-review-b1968472.html West Side Story Review: Spielberg’s Version Wasn’t a Radical Revisionist Success

Emma Bowman

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