Back in 1962, West Side Story stormed the Oscars, winning 10 Academy Awards; the record holder for the most wins by a musical. Some fans would say remaking the 1950s New York romantic drama would be a really bad idea. But Steven Spielberg had the guts and is now lapping up five-star praise from the critics for his effort.
West Side Story is, I believe, Spielberg’s finest film in 20 years, and a new milestone in the career of one of our greatest living directors.
Heartfelt and heartbreaking, this feels like Spielberg has made an adaptation faithful to its roots but also, always, alive to the modern world.
Spielberg quite rightly doesn’t try hiding any of those stage origins. His mastery of technique is thrilling; I gave my heart to this poignant American fairytale of doomed love.
New York Post
It’s the ET director’s most visually exciting film in a zillion years.
Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story has a brash effervescence. You can feel the joy he got out of making it, and the kick is infectious.
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Spielberg and Kushner have done justice to what Bernstein, Robbins, and the quite recently late Stephen Sondheim made all those years ago – not subverting its enduring value, but rather, with fire and grace, doing so much to earn it.
It’s a wonderful musical, and an unabashed Steven Spielberg movie.
West Side Story moves like a freight train, its 156 minutes passing in barely a breath, and that breakneck pace, combined with the expressionist aesthetic and candy-coloured imagery, reminds us that blockbusters don’t have to be grey-scaled dreck.
Rest easy musical fans, Spielberg has done it, and now a whole new audience can revel in the splendour of West Side Story.
However, not all the critics were as impressed, with some giving West Side Story three stars.
West Side Story arrives 60 years after the original movie
West Side Story is visually entrancing, emotional, and the choreography and staging magnetic even when certain aspects of the story don’t always work.
Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story is that curious kind of remake: impressively put together, but so reverentially similar to the original it doesn’t quite warrant the effort.
How can a film look this good, feel so moving, and still come up lacking?
The 2021 version of West Side Story will no doubt get some Oscars buzz, but the musical isn’t without its controversy.
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According to critics after the New York premiere, West Side Story’s Spanish dialogue by the Puerto-Rican Sharks makes up almost half the movie and there are no subtitles to translate them.
Entertainment Weekly and The Wrap’s Yolanda Machado celebrated Spielberg’s controversial change on Twitter.
She announced: “West Side Story is fantastic. White people gonna be big mad tho and GOOD. Bless you Steven Spielberg for not subtitling when our people use our language.
“In a country where nearly 20 per cent of the population speaks Spanish, the subtitles just further keep us othered.”
West Side Story hits cinemas on December 10, 2021.
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