Review: West Side Story (2021)

West Side Story (2021) West Side Story (2021)

From “Remake? Why?” to essential, timely, breathtaking update.

It’s kind of wild to go from wondering how a Steven Spielberg musical might look, to realising, “Oh, he’s been doing this since Raiders“. What’s almost as much fun, is watching Film Twitter collectively scrapbook this realisation:

My personal favourite sequence may be Anita (the electric Ariana DeBose) gathering dancers and momentum in the opening bars of America:

And I mean come on:

West Side Story (2021)
West Side Story (2021)

It’s difficult to describe the feeling of seeing this classic updated, not in setting, but with racially appropriate casting, and the way the importance of that infuses the entire viewing experience. While the love story between Maria and Tony remains the least compelling or convincing element (perhaps in large part because of the relatively flat presence of Ansel Elgort), Rachel Zegler, who is luminous in her role, reveals the consideration that went into updating the character of Maria:

The 2021 version is an ideal do-over of the 1961 version, utilising modern technology while retaining the classic aesthetic, as shown in this featurette on West Side Story‘s cinematography, as lensed by longtime Spielberg collaborator Janusz Kamiński (via 20th Century Studios):

Further Viewing

Be Kind Rewind‘s excellent deep-dive examines realism, ethnicity, and casting when comparing the two versions of West Side Story:

In Depth Cine looks more broadly at the Cinematography Style of Janusz Kamiński, and his collaborative dynamic with Spielberg…

… and so, too, does StudioBinder:

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