Steven Spielberg’s remake is undeniably resonant : NPR4 min read
20th Century Studios
A lot of us had our doubts when we listened to that Steven Spielberg would be directing a new edition of West Aspect Tale, and not just due to the fact of Hollywood remake fatigue. In the many years given that it initial appeared on Broadway in 1957, the Romeo and Juliet-encouraged story of two warring New York street gangs has generated additional than its share of criticism, specifically over the crafting and the casting of its Puerto Rican people. Even the beloved 1961 movie evokes groans now for possessing solid Natalie Wood in the guide part of María, and for forcing Rita Moreno, the only Puerto Rican in the solid, to dress in dim brown make-up as Anita.
Sixty decades afterwards, Moreno is an govt producer on Spielberg’s West Aspect Story. She also presents a poignant overall performance in the new purpose of Valentina, the widow of Doc, the drugstore proprietor. By her existence, Moreno teaches us how to tactic this motion picture, as equally an affectionate tribute and a mild corrective.
Spielberg and his typical screenwriter of late, the playwright Tony Kushner, give us a more durable, grimier eyesight of the Upper West Facet in the 1950s. We see the operating-class neighborhood of San Juan Hill, property to mainly Black and Latino people, staying demolished to make way for new developments like Lincoln Heart. You will find a heightened feeling of hostility among the Puerto Rican gang recognised as the Sharks and their white rivals, the Jets, and their rumbles are startlingly violent.
Including to the realism is the point that the Sharks are performed by actors of Latino descent. They involve David Alvarez as Bernardo, the brash chief of the Sharks, and Ariana DeBose as his girlfriend, Anita. Each actors are wonderful, as is Rachel Zegler, earning a fantastic monitor debut as Bernardo’s minimal sister, María.
The tale hasn’t altered: María falls into an ill-fated romance with Tony, a previous member of the Jets, performed by Ansel Elgort. Early in the film, the two meet surreptitiously on María’s fireplace escape, singing “Tonight,” a person of the numerous common Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim tracks gloriously revived in the film.
What is amazing about this and the other quantities is how brilliantly Spielberg directs them. West Facet Tale is the first musical he is at any time produced, but it is no shock that he’s a natural at it: Couple other American filmmakers have a far more instinctive perception of rhythm and visible move, or far more direct obtain to your feelings.
Spielberg levels the quantities like an previous-school Hollywood classicist, with none of the extremely jumpy enhancing that could possibly distract from the dancing. When the Jets and the Sharks fulfill up at a faculty dance, their clashing tempers and bodies pull you in with an nearly actual physical pressure. And when Anita and Bernardo sing “The us,” their rousing song about the pleasures and perils of assimilation, the scene builds from a domestic squabble to a joyous social gathering in the streets, which Spielberg shoots in a lively whirl of shade and motion.
The Tony-successful choreographer Justin Peck wrings some clever variants on Jerome Robbins’ first dance moves, regardless of whether it is the Jets wreaking havoc in a law enforcement station residence throughout their major comic-reduction quantity, “Gee, Officer Krupke,” or Tony and his friends tossing around a pistol during a tense efficiency of the music “Neat.”
Speaking of Tony’s mates: As Riff, the leader of the Jets, Mike Faist gives one particular of the movie’s standout performances. The weak url in the forged is Elgort: He can sing and dance, but you will find an psychological flatness to his acting that isn’t going to very gel with the considerably livelier Zegler.
Spielberg can’t address every thing which is creaky and dated about West Aspect Tale as a text. But he knows that the demonstrate nevertheless has one thing resonant to say about racism and violence in any era, together with ours. The rationale the movie is effective so perfectly stems, I feel, from a curious paradox: This West Facet Tale may perhaps be grittier and extra real looking than the primary movie, but it also feels far more thrillingly old-fashioned than just about anything a Hollywood studio has unveiled in ages.
By the close, I was not moved so a lot by Tony and María’s sweet, fairly drippy romance or the fatalistic drama concerning the Jets and the Sharks. I was moved by Spielberg’s conviction, his sheer religion in the transporting electrical power of videos. For two-and-a-50 % hrs, he tends to make you a believer once again.