For any traditionalist, West Side Story epitomizes the Broadway musical production both on stage and on the screen. It’s just too faultless in prompt character arc, an urgent message, melodious motif juxtaposition, and choreography that will turn any cynic into a performing arts fanatic. So, with the blueprints and previous successes of the 1957 stage and 1961 film, Steven Spielberg had only one obstacle to wrap his head around: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The 21st century is saturated with remakes, reboots, and “reimaginations,” but I guess if one of the best directors on this planet wants to join in, he has every right to, and, my goodness, his interpretation is phenomenal.
I so wanted to continue loathing Ansel Elgort for his smugness (and off camera allegations), but he was likable, his voice was simultaneously sandy and pure, and he even came across humble. Rachel Zegler as Maria is a blessing and a prayer. I don’t think we will ever hear a better rendition of “Tonight,” and things only skyrocketed from there with “One Hand, One Heart.”
The camera soars through the vibrant dancing, practically teaching the audience some basic moves to only trip us up and begin again in a trance-like fashion. It’s simply mesmerizing artistic direction on behalf of Master Spielberg. (I thought only Scorsese and PT Anderson could move the camera like this.)
It is impossible to leave the theatre without humming a song or two (or nine) on your drive back home. This is where the traditional musical becomes a cherished memory and Lin-Manuel Miranda has to be put on repeat to catch up.
**** out of *****