Best Picture Reviews: West Side Story

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I honestly can’t believe I haven’t seen this before. I just know that I’m going to watch this a LOT in my life. When I went in, although I wasn’t familiar with the musical, I knew it was an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, which I studied last year. I had no idea how strong it would hold up.

During the late 1950’s, New York was Ruled by two groups of rambunctious teenagers, The Jets (who are all American) and the Sharks. (who are Peurto Rican). But when a boy Jet named Tony, (Richard Beymer) and a girl Shark named Maria (Natalie Wood), the streets of Manhattan will never be the same.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that all of the songs as well as the script were created for the film, and that the stage show came later.That fact alone automatically gives this movie five stars. It’s not like The Lion King, where the story only resembles Hamlet in the vaguest of ways, this movie takes the entire plot from Romeo and Juliet, yet updates it while keeping a majority of the characters and scenes. And not once does it feel forced. It all feels like it could have actually taken place. It feels real, well, as real as a musical can be.

Even the changes that are made to the story work in the environment that is created. A good example is that in the original Shakespeare play, Romeo and Juliet marry after only having known each other for a few days. But in West Side Story, the couple meets in a clothing store and pretend to have a wedding in a cute, yet still beautiful sequence. And the speech that Maria gives at the end .. wow.

Oh, and Beymer was great, Wood was wonderful, Chakiris was pretty good, and Moreno was remarkable. The costumes, the cinematography, the editing, and don’t even get me started on the sets. In short, you have to see this one. It’s up there. It’s in the top four. Highly, highly recommended.

*****

Three five-star films in a row? Man, I am digging the 60’s! Next one’s the 3-hour long Lawrence Of Arabia. Here’s hoping it’s more like Ben-Hur and not so much like The Bridge On The River Kwai.

(Also, did the movie or musical come first? Wikipedia said the musical came first but songs from the films are on AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Songs list. I

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