New York, late 1950s. The story of a confrontation between two street gangs and the impossible love of a young man and a girl from the warring factions.
4k movies reviews
There are such perfect adaptations of great works in world cinema that the idea of re-adapting them seems ridiculous. It is unlikely that in the future we will see a new version of “Gone with the Wind” or “To Kill a Mockingbird” – even though the existing films are many decades old, from today’s perspective there is little to add to them anyway. “West Side Story” 1961 is one of them, too. That adaptation is completely redundant, perfect, and a perfect cinematic embodiment of the musical by the great Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.
The very news of a re-enactment of the story of New York’s Romeo and Juliet made one tense. And it’s not because Steven Spielberg, even though he is a great director, but has no experience with musicals, and in general in recent years, frankly gave up. This film doomed itself in absentia to be compared not only with the old version, but also with countless stage productions of the musical. To solve this problem, an entirely different approach had to be chosen, but whether Spielberg managed to find one remains a question…
If we take apart the new film into separate elements, many of them are close to perfection. From the opening minutes, Janusz Kaminski’s camera does incredible things, enlivening the slums of New York and dancing along with the dancers. Almost all of the actors look great, and, what’s the harm, fit their roles much better than their predecessors in 1961 (sorry, Natalie Wood). Riff, Bernardo and Anita, who have always been the best characters in this story, are peerless together and individually. Ariana BeDos is the star of the picture and seems to be the lead actress of all the new musicals (in the last year alone, she appeared in Ryan Murphy’s “The Graduate” and the lovely series “Schmigadoon!”). Without Rita Moreno in a symbolic role, it’s as if the film wouldn’t work at all – if Spielberg had also persuaded George Chakiris to stop by for a minute, fans of the old picture would have choked with nostalgia.
There’s only one casting blunder, but it’s a very big one. It’s Ansel Elgort in the title role. Even though Tony and Maria are the main characters in the story, more often than not, the background completely distracts from them, so only talented and charismatic actors could have fixed that. And while it worked with Maria (debutante Rachel Segler is charming, well acted and sings beautifully), Tony pulls the film down. Elgort’s acting abilities have raised questions before, and here he’s supposed to be the emotional center of the drama, making the viewer believe in this little believable 24-hour love story. Even the extended backstory of the character doesn’t help – the actor lacks charisma, self-expression and, indeed, vocal data. The classic songs in his performance sound sluggish and lack personality. Because of this suffers from his on-screen “chemistry” with Zegler, and some joint scenes the actress has to openly pull alone.
Took to rewrite the script Tony Kushner added a lot of new details and strengthened the agenda, which in “West Side Story” and has always been in place. In some places, these innovations look good, but more often than not they seem to deliberately stretch out the already rather small timeline and make you a little bored. Many of the dialogues are written as if for a tick and serve only to fill the time between songs and dances. The musical numbers are reimagined, by the way, very well done. Some were perfectly refreshed (“America” took on new colors, “Gee, Officer Krupke” had a wonderful buffoonery, letting Rita Moreno sing “Somewhere” is one of the best decisions in the movie), some were given very strange elements (there is no reason why “Cool” should be sung by Tony), but the tunes and lyrics by Bernstein and Sondheim have already outgrown the musical and gone into popular use.
Even though there’s a lot of decently done stuff, this movie didn’t work for me. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t compare to the old “West Side Story,” where all the components, not even the most perfect ones, worked in powerful symbiosis with each other and gave birth to the magic that is in every good musical. And without that magic, without a lucid Tony and with a lot of unnecessary digressions, the new picture becomes just another version of the same old story about a hasty one-day affair of teenagers that got too many people killed. Even if fantastically beautifully filmed.
Codec: HEVC / H.265 (41.4 Mb/s)
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1
English: Dolby TrueHD with Dolby Atmos 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
English: Dolby Digital 5.1
English: Dolby Digital 2.0
German: Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
German: Dolby Digital 5.1
French: Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
French: Dolby Digital 5.1
Italian: Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1
English SDH, French, German, Italian, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish.