Some Thoughts After Seeing West Side Story

It happens every Christmas. I’m not sure when the tradition started, but at some point in our lives, my family decided to see a movie every year on Christmas day. Growing up, it was probably the one day a year when all four of us would go see something at the same time. Sure, there were probably a few exceptions, like when Jurassic Park came out and we were all excited about seeing that. But Christmas was always the big one.

Over the years we’ve seen such classics as Stepmom, Les Misérables, Daddy’s Home, Exodus: Gods and Kings… okay… they weren’t all classics. This year, since I couldn’t convince my mom and sister to see Spider-Man: No Way Home or The Matrix Resurrections (because neither of them have seen a single MCU or Matrix movie), our best bet was the West Side Story remake.

Mom was always a huge fan of the 1961 version. I’ve only watched it a couple of times myself. She, of course, made us watch it when we were kids. And then I rewatched it when I was going through the AFI top 100 list for this blog. I was never all that impressed, to be honest. And I still laugh when I see these street toughs participating in choreographed dances in the streets. These are the intimidating youths of the neighborhood. Okay…

But I get why it’s so beloved. It’s modernish retelling of Romeo & Juliet. Everyone loves a tragic love story, right? Make it about street gangs and throw in a few hauntingly beautiful songs and you’ve got yourself a Broadway hit. And that 1961 film walked away with 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture of the year.

So how does Steven Spielberg’s 2021 retelling measure up?

The movie isn’t making any big waves. It’s been a disappointment at the box office. I don’t expect it to receive any significant nominations.

And that’s a bummer. I really like Spielberg (who doesn’t?). He’s wanted to do a musical forever and this was his shot. And since it’s underperforming, he’s likely to steer clear of them in the future.

It’s not a bad movie. It’s just unnecessary. Like most remakes…

I want to say good things about West Side Story, but as I’ve never exactly been a fan of the original, I’m finding that difficult. The movie is well shot, the choreography is spot on, and the music is what it is. Overall, it’s a sad and depressing story… which is likely why I so rarely revisit the 1961 version. I mean, I avoid Moulin Rouge for the same reasons. I may enjoy some of the music involved, but that doesn’t mean I have to subject myself to the entire movie just to end up fighting to hold back tears in the end.

I’m sorry to say that West Side Story is just middle of the road for me. It gets the job done, but it’s a job that was done better 60 years ago and really didn’t need repeating.

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6 thoughts on “Some Thoughts After Seeing West Side Story

  1. “I don’t expect it to receive any significant nominations.”

    You’d do well to watch the awards process in the coming weeks. No serious awards-watcher I’ve read doubts that WSS will win a number of significant nominations, including for the Oscars. Unlike you, the industry is quite impressed with this movie, leaving aside its disappointing box office returns. Spileberg for his direction, Tony Kushner for his screenplay, the cinematographer, the costumers, the hair and makeup artists as well as the production designers are all being talked about as awards worthy. And at least four cast members are already viewed as serious possible Oscar contenders: Rachel Zegler (Maria), Ariana DeBose (Anita), Mike Faist (Riff) and Rita Moreno (Valentina). I’d suggest that you keep up with the news as awards season begins to crescendo, starting in early January.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have heard from someone else that they were disappointed there were no English subtitles for the Spanish speaking parts. Did that bother you? I think we may see it because it’s one of my husband’s favorites.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think I remember hearing that was a criticism that some people had, but it really didn’t bother me. Part of that could be that I took a lot of years learning Spanish… I can’t speak it, but there is still a lot of it that I can pick up if I’m paying attention. Also, I feel like you can get what’s being said from context clues and the English that’s thrown in.

      Liked by 1 person

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