West Side Story ★★★★½

Quickie Review 
During a time when big screen musicals were still popular with audiences but also entering a decade where it was starting to die down, this cinematic adaptation of the Jerome Robbins Broadway hit was the big hit of the musical genre and ran off with 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture. Robbins & Robert Wise (who would go on to helm The Sound of Music) would team up to deliver a take on the classic “Romeo & Juliet” story, moving the tale of star-crossed love to the slums of Manhattan, where two very different gangs are at war for the neighborhood: The Jets, a Polish-American gang & The Sharks, a gang comprised of recently immigrated Puerto Ricans. In the midst of the gang war, Tony (Richard Beymer), a Jet, and Maria (Natalie Wood), sister of the Sharks’ leader Bernardo (George Chakiris), fall in love with each other despite being on different sides but the romance will soon lead to tragedy. I first saw this movie back in high school but I was already aware of it through a library book that had the script for both this & “Romeo & Juliet”, as well as a very enjoyable “GoodFeathers” segment on “Animaniacs” and all those commercials for The Gap. The film pulsates with such flowing life, breathtaking energy and top-notch music & choreography but it also has themes and messages regarding race and violence. While the main cast is good, it’s Rita Moreno’s Oscar-winning performance that is truly spectacular. There are reasons why she is so revered, respected and beloved by so many and her performance is one of those reasons. One gripe I have about the movie is the brownface for some of the actors portraying the Sharks and the other Puerto Ricans. That itself is a very cringeworthy thing that could hinder the viewing experience for some. Still, West Side Story is a musical classic that’s worth checking out.

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