Rylee McDonal ~ Copy Editor
This 2021 remake, directed by Steven Speilberg, is a visually stunning renewal of a classic musical.
The movie centers around two lovers, Tony and Maria, played respectively by Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler, as they are caught in the midst of a gangwar between the Jets and the Sharks. With incredible vocals and choreography to match, it is no wonder that the movie had been nominated for several oscars.
As well, the way the movie was directed made the viewer feel as though they were watching the movie on stage. There were times during the movie where the lighting would either be focused on the eyes of a character, or be spotlighting a character. This would make the character or certain features of said character stand out to the audience.
This was also key to the main story, like when Tony went looking for Maria and she was given a spotlight to make her stand out more among the alley way of hanging laundry.
What one would infer from watching this movie is that it is another retelling of Romeo and Juliet. There are two people who fall instantly in love with each other, being kept apart by their two families. And this would be mostly correct. However, while it is a retelling of a classic play, it still takes it in a different direction.
Aside from the added music and dancing, West Side Story adds in other themes such as gang violence and racism to make it stand out. As well, the movie has a modernized ending from that of Romeo and Juliet. After the fight between the Jets and the Sharks that killed Maria’s older brother and Tony’s best friend, Tony returns to Maria to confess that he had murdered her brother.
Instead of being enraged, Maria tells Tony that she will run away with him. Tony returns to his home to start packing, while Maria and Anita, played by Ariana DeBose, argue before being questioned by Police Lieutenant Schrank, played by Corey Stoll.
Maria asks Anita to give Tony a message from her, but when she gets to Tony’s home she is assaulted by several of the Jets. They are stopped by Tony’s guardian character, who receives the message from Anita. However, it is a message that Maria has been shot and killed, rather than that she is on the way to meet with Tony.
When Tony hears this, he is overcome with grief and goes into the streets to scream for the alleged murderer Chino, played by Josh Andres Rivera. When Tony turns around, Maria is running towards him while Chino appears from the rubble behind him. Chino then shoots Tony who dies in the arms of Maria.
While I thought this was going to lead to Maria killing herself, she instead points the gun at Chino and members of the Jets and Sharks. She has an emotional outburst, stating that they had all taught her to hate after only knowing love and having it die in her arms. The two groups then carry Tony’s dead body off screen together.
This final show of unity between these groups shows that different groups of people can overcome their differences for the sake of the people they love, although hopefully it does not take a death to bring people together.
West Side Story (2021) is an honorable retelling for a classic musical and is more than worth the watch. It is now streaming on both HBOMax and Disney+.