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West Side Story (2021); Grade: B+

West Side Story tells a story about a couple gangs in New York between The Jets (Caucasians) and The Sharks (Puerto Ricans). These two gangs just simply do not like each other due to their race, as The Jets fear The Sharks are taking over their block, while The Sharks fear The Jets because their selfish delinquents. One past member of The Jets by the name of Tony (Ansel Elgort) is on parole, as he’s had a dark past regarding hurting an individual. Tony hesitates going to a dance because he doesn’t want to get in trouble, especially where tensions are heating up between these gangs, as Tony just wants to change himself from that life style completely. Tony ends up at the dance, where he gets acquainted by a beautiful Puerto Rican girl named Maria (Rachel Zegler). Maria and Tony shared a dance, as when The Sharks heard about this dance more so Maria’s brother Bernando (David Alvarez)... They want beat the living hell out of Tony, because these gangs don’t want their race to see each other romantically. So the current leader of The Jets Riff (Mike Faist) quickly settles this dispute, by setting up a rumble between Bernando, as they’ll be fighting the following day. Riff will get Tony caught up in some trouble he wants no part of, as the only thing Tony wants to be apart of is loving Maria. Will Tony get out of trouble and everyone will join forces in togetherness, realizing this feud at hand is complete stupidity?!

I recently watched the original West Side Story: I was surprised on how much I loved it. What I love about West Side Story is the musical portion and the story telling portion is balanced, at times musicals can get too carried away and be over power the story telling itself which can be extremely exhausting to sit through, however West Side Story does a fantastic job in keeping the balance consistently. Great story, great characters, great performances, great set design, great music… Just an all around great film.

I didn’t watch any trailers for this newest remake of this film, all I knew about it was Steven Speilberg is behind the camera and that Ansel Elgort is the leading man which I’ve enjoyed him in films in the past. So I was hoping this film would be at least a solid remake, especially not wrecking the original. Well it’s disappointing this film was a box office dud… Because this remake was actually really good.

West Side Story continues to have that same balance like the first film, it never over powers itself with the musical portion as it’s still a well told story with some really good musical moments. There is one moment where sometimes a musical moment here and there can be a bit over barring some, as they merged together as the original didn’t do it as often like this one does in a couple moments. I would also like to point out some musical sequences weren’t as good as the original , however there are some great musical moments more so with Ansel and Maria’s musical sequences. Especially Ansels I mean… Get this man in every musical for now on, this man is freaking talented. Speaking of musicals: I was really impressed with the composed score, as it was terrifically done. It’s very accurate not only from the first film, but more so the time period of this film as it even competed with the musical moments too by itself alone.

Cinematography t’was solid, however I did have some issues with how the film looked a couple times. Some moments in the film you can clearly tell scenes were done in a set, as it’s was very noticeable to the point where it can be distracting.

The cast all in all were pretty good as a whole. It’s a robbery that Ansel Elgort did not receive a nomination for his performance as Tony, as I thought he was fantastic. Ansel becomes a musical icon in this film alone, as he was brilliant delivering the best musical sequences I’ve seen in a very long time… Like this mans singing ability is incredible, I gotten goosebumps while watching him sing, it was that great. Acting ability was top notch, delivered in the emotional scenes while also doing a fairly well done job with the anger sequences as well. Tony like the original was a great character to follow, however in this film they tweaked it a little a bit and gave him more depth, as I felt it helped benefited this character as the change was well earned.

Rachel Zegler playing Maria was also pretty good in her performance, she did a terrific job in the musical sequences and had terrific chemistry with Ansel Elgort as well, as their scenes were the best part of this film. The film does minimal changes with Maria, her occupation changed and she actually gave Chino (Josh Andres Rivera) a fair chance by dancing with him at the dance. I liked the Chino change, however the occupation change… Eh, was pretty stereotypical. See the original did a pretty great job in showcasing that Puerto Ricans don’t always go by the stereotypical standards placed out for them, as far as where they work and such, as in the original they owned a dress shop. While in this film… The hotel service maid change, I wasn’t feeling it at all, I would’ve scratched that change.

The story compared to the original is almost the same, however the story makes some significant changes to where you can see the differences between the two. The story keeps that golden standard like the original, addressing a sensitive subject with regards to segregation, racism, discrimination, and how feuding with each other is completely pointless as it does nothing but cause harm to one another. This back and forth feuding really doesn’t do anything for anybody, other than pain and especially body bags piling up one by one and for what purpose?! That’s just that: There is no purpose justifying that any of this makes sense or should be acceptable. The point of the matter is we were all brought to this earth to rejoice and love one another, as we shall do that and not let pointless things get in the way… The fact people are so heavily entitled to their skin tone, to where they want to express hatred for one another or not being open minded to loving one another whom appear different than them are flat out idiots. If you’re worried this film would be too preachy on this subject matter, don’t worry it’s not, it’s handled extremely well and gets it’s point across like the original… I know this subject matter has been handled HORRIBLY these last 8 years in society, but don’t you worry it’s not handled poorly at all here thankfully.

There is this character named Anybodys (Iris Menas), whom bothers The Jets as like the first film there was a character that bothers The Jets because she wants to be in the gang… I felt what this film did to this character this time around was a bit obnoxious. Like in the first film she was enjoyable to watch, as she delivered solid comedic purposes as the gang wouldn’t allow her in because she was a girl. This time around… This character pops up every now and then, but doesn’t really do anything for the story, other than being a pure distraction. I don’t know what the world went on with this change, but sheesh this was just BAD, I would’ve just ditched this character because what the hell was that all about?!

Overall, West Side Story was pretty good. I highly recommend this film, it’s a lovely time at the theaters as your eyes and ears are in for a treat. -Mitch Smietana

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