Steven Spielberg’s remake of 1961’s West Side Story which itself was based on the 1957 broadway musical written by the late Stephen Sondheim is a dazzling film that is beautifully epic in scale. The original film gained ten Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Score, which means the latest adaptation has some big boots to fill. The music here is the best part of the film, with grand orchestral tracks along with the usual ballad. “I Feel Pretty” is a classic song that is brought to life beautifully by Ariana DeBose who has a beautiful voice throughout every song she features. As for Ansel Elgort, well I’d rather forget he was in it at all…
The depiction of gang violence is obviously not graphic, but it does hit home that no one wins when violence is the answer these people go to. The Jets and the Sharks both want territory and there is only one way that will be settled, with a ‘rumble.’ The tension between the Puerto Rican’s and the Jets is explored really well and is, of course, the main reason our Star-Crossed lovers face adversity. Both are intent on destroying each other once and for all, no matter the consequences.
Transgender representation is offered up in this film with one of our Jets being assigned female at birth, identifying now as male. It was great to see a character that is transgender and not have it be played for laughs or be a joke for the cis-gendered audience. This feels like a character who just happens to be transgender and he wants to be part of the Jets, though there may be some friction on that issue. Given that this is set in the late 1950s there is some pushback but that is realistic and thankfully quite brief, although uncomfortable.