West Side Story

West Side Story ★★★½

I'm not saying I'd really love Spielberg's take on this if I bought into anyone falling head over heels in love with Ansel Elgort's Tony this fast, but, man, Elgort is one hell of a weak link here. The weird thing is that his performance isn't exactly bad, but his charisma is so lacking that it amounts to the same thing, especially when the rest of the cast is both good and possessed of that sort of draw.

Even beyond that, most of Spielberg's choices seem too traditional. Kushner's script does some nice work modernizing the book, but the songs feel old rather than classic, and getting in and out of them never feels completely natural. Maybe this particular play just isn't my thing - after all, folks behind me were applauding - but the sillier songs seemed to go on longer than the heartfelt ones, undoing most of the sharpening Kushner did.

Every once in a while, there's a moment when one gets excited to see Spielberg attacking this material - Tony and Maria first laying eyes on each other is the sort of sequence that reminds you that he instinctively knows how the medium works even when doing shots nobody has tried before - but mostly, the movie is missing the sort of transformative spark that makes remakes of classics worthwhile.

(Or I just don't particularly care for West Side Story and/or Ansel Elgort)

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