West Side Story
In keeping up with some of the films from across the globe, I decided to watch and review the English film West Side Story on Hotstar. This film marks the last of the Oscar Nominated ones which I have reviewed, all of which are present on Popcorn Reviewss(so do give all of them a read). The interesting bit is that while I was reading about the film I got to know that this is a remake(or adaptation) of the original 1961 film of the same name. What made things even more interesting was that I got to know that the SRK starrer Josh was also a remake of the 1961 film. That indeed was a sense of nostalgia when life was simple back then and all you needed to do was pick a side – Eagles or Bichhoos and just argue. But then that aside, I realised that I did have a hint about the plot as well. So then does West Side Story manage to surprise me, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
An official adaptation of the 1961 film of the same name, West Side Story follows the story of a rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks until two teenagers from both groups fall for each other. The story is a musical with the characters breaking a jig while expressing their moments. This was a refreshing form of storytelling especially in 2022 as it adds a different layer of emotions to the already engaging drama. But not everyone is privy to it and so this is a niche(like it was in the english film In The Heights). Now, if you have watched the original(and not counting the Hindi adaptation of it which I will come to in a minute), then you would already know the beats of the tragedy which does unfold. The hindi adaptation Josh has a similar crux with a different trajectory due to which I will not be comparing it with this. But the screenplay is quite upbeat and thoroughly enjoyable. This was perhaps the first time that I was watching a musical tragedy unfold and it just hit a different chord.
Each of the sequences are well thoughtout and clear in terms of its emotions as well as the storytelling. The clear demarcation between the cultures of the Americans and the migrants from Puerto Rico is well showcased and probably a relevant issue even now(perhaps, I maybe wrong here). What fascinated me the most was that despite this being a musical, the story was progressing at a rapid pace. And I was engaged throughout its runtime of more than 150 minutes. The situations created leading upto the twist in the tale and also the fate of the protagonists was quite interesting. The film does get murky towards the backend ending in a viciously dark final act which just felt like poetry in motion. An absolutely delightful screenplay this!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are sparingly used(considering this being a musical) but they definitely manage to make an impact. The music is excellent and perhaps the strongest element of the film. The tunes created evoke the right set of emotions and help in investing in the characters. The BGM instantly reminds you of some of the english films which you may have watched through the 90s, quite nostalgic! The choreography is outstanding and quite entertaining. The cinematography and editing is top notch. Director Steven Spielberg has probably chosen is most unlike subject which is a musical. So clearly he is not in his comfort zone. Yet, his direction is top class and he is in total control throughout.
The performances are excellent here. Josh Andres Rivera as Chino has his moments to shine particularly towards the end. Mike Faist as Riff is first rate as is Rita Moreno as Valentina. David Alvarez as Bernando is brilliant and does full justice to his character. Ariana DeBose as Anita is outstanding and she adds many layers to her character just through her acting. Rachel Zegler as Maria looks so pretty and does a charming job here. Ansel Elgort as Tony is extremely affable and he shares some crackling chemistry with his co-star.
West Side Story is a brilliant musical tragedy which might be a niche but is extremely engaging from start to finish. Available on Hotstar and Highly Recommended.