West Side Story

The screen achieves one of the great entertainments in the history of motion pictures.

Crime Drama Romance
152 min     7.3     1961     USA

Overview

In the slums of the upper West Side of Manhattan, New York, a gang of Polish-American teenagers called the Jets compete with a rival gang of recently immigrated Puerto Ricans, the Sharks, to "own" the neighborhood streets. Tensions are high between the gangs but two kids, one from each rival gang, fall in love leading to tragedy.

Reviews

John Chard wrote:
Why do you kids live like there's a war on? West Side Story is directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise. It stars Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, Simon Oakland and Ned Glass. Music is by Leonard Bernstein (lyrics by Stephen Sondheim) and cinematography by Daniel L. Fapp. In the less affluent areas of the upper West Side of Manhattan, New York, a gang of Polish-American teenagers called "The Jets" are in conflict with a rival gang of immigrated Puerto Ricans called "The Sharks". They each thirst to own the neighborhood streets, but with tensions reaching peak point, two kids, one from each rival gang, fall in love... A Multi Oscar winner, West Side Story is a musical update of Romeo & Juliet. Set in the 50s in a steamy gangland New York, pic unfurls in a blaze of booming colour and scintillating choreography (Robbins). It has very much become a film that musical lovers can rejoice in, for even though it has problems, when it soars it soars far and away. Problems come with the crossed gang lovers played by Wood and Beymer, the actors dubbing is poor, their dialogue delivery also itchy. It doesn't help that the film's quality noticeably dips when this fall in love axis of the story (as key as it is) shows up - stretching the run time to a nearly unbearable and unjustified length. Yet it remains a joyous experience even today, you can forgive it for its ills when you get songs like "America" (Moreno the best thing in the film by far) that transport you up there on the screen. Or that the choreography is like a ballet version of circus acrobatics in full effect. In short, if you have any kink for musicals in filmic form, this is a must see. 8/10
r96sk wrote:
Not one for me. I did not enjoy 1961's 'West Side Story', unfortunately. I felt almost everything about it to be kinda crappy if I'm honest. For one I didn't feel any chemistry with the cast, with no standout performer in sight; and that's on top of the iffy casting itself. None of the music - aside from that one tiny bit of "Tonight" - hits and the story comes across as forced. The musical numbers are also extremely staged, the whole thing feels like a stage performance rather than a film; in fact, I genuinely assumed that the actors were just Broadway performers - à la 'Jersey Boys'. New York City also doesn't feel real or, away from the main characters, lived in. Admittedly musicals aren't my go-to, though I'm more than capable of enjoying them. This, however, just didn't work for me at all. I wouldn't class it as anything awful, it's just simply quite poor - in my eyes, of course. Many, including the Oscars apparently, disagree! With all that said, I'm still interested in checking out the 2021 remake at some point to see what Steven Spielberg did (or didn't do) with it.

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