West Side Story

While this film appears to be dying at the box office, it is a beautiful movie from beginning to end.

West Side Story

I recently “celebrated” my 75th birthday and the wife of a good friend took me to see this film as a gift. On top of that, we saw it at the museum IMAX in downtown Indy, my favorite theater.

While we both loved it, there were few people attending, and it wasn’t hard to guess why. Despite historic singing and dancing, a story about gangs in New York in 1957 simply had no appeal to young people.

Then again, Spielberg’s film deserves consideration when the Oscar awards are announced. It has already received numerous nominations from both the Critic’s Choice and Golden Globes. It may be the recreation of the original film released in 1961, but how do you ignore the reality that the music was composed by Leonard Bernstein and the lyricist was Stephen Sondheim?

In any event, this is a Romeo and Juliet story about forbidden love. Two gangs, the Jets (white Americans) and the Sharks (Puerto Ricans) fight for control of the streets while a section of New York slums is being demolished. Tony (Ansel Elgort), a Jet, falls in love with Maria (Rachel Zegler), a beautiful Puerto Rican girl, and anger erupts on both sides.

Women actually dominate this movie, and the performances of Rita Moreno as Valentina and as Ariana DeBose (Anita) are unforgettable. Ms. Moreno, who is 90 years old, appears as a Puerto Rican woman whose late husband was white. She gives Tony a place to live as her wisdom is rejected on the streets. She played Anita in the original West Side and won a best supporting Oscar in 1962. I predict she will win again this year.

But if she doesn’t win, Ms. DeBose should. Her singing and dancing will leave you mesmerized at every turn. As Maria’s older sister, she tries to navigate turbulent street encounters to the film’s shattering conclusion.

I don’t mean to ignore the guys, as Mike Faist and David Alvarez are exciting as Riff and Bernardo, the leaders of the rival gangs. But it is the women, not the men, who “feel pretty”.