All About West Side Story

Reception to the new version of West Side Story has been a mixed bag.  Yes, it’s gotten good reviews, but it brought in only $10 million its opening weekend.  To put that into perspective, Spider-Man made $120 million its first day!  However, WSS is beautifully shot, well-acted, and faithful to the original musical.  You know I can’t bear bad lip synching.  I’m happy to report it’s not an issue here (with the exception of Ansel Elgort in the Cloisters scene – straight tones would never come out of a jaw moving that much).  While one misses the work of Jerome Robbins, the new choreography by Justin Peck of the New York City Ballet is quite marvelous in its own right.

Mike Faist is a standout as Riff (I knew he’d be a star when I saw him in Dear Evan Hansen).  However, every time the Jets walked down the street, it looked like an outtake from The Outsiders – I even referred to one character as Pony Boy!  And if I didn’t know about the controversy, I wouldn’t have even noticed the alleged “transgender” character.  As always, Rita Moreno was a delight.  My only caveat is that she was directed to be strangely subdued for the last 15 minutes.  Speaking of which, has there ever been a less fiery Anita than Ariana DeBose?  For me, the fatal flaw in the film is the lack of subtitles whenever characters spoke Spanish.  I understand Spielberg’s argument – if you subtitle the Spanish, you are marginalizing those characters.  But I do wonder if the English will be subtitled when this film is shown in a Spanish-speaking country.  I’m also wondering if anyone has ever seen a Romeo and Juliet where they lapse into Italian.  After all, that entire story takes place in Verona.  Food for thought.  Is this film worth seeing?  Yes, if you can manage 2 hours and 45 minutes – which I think is too long for any film.  Should you wait to see it at home?  Actually, I really think it should be seen on a big screen.  Is it a classic?  The jury’s out.

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