West Side Story ★★★

I have not read the book or seen the play this film succeeded. Also, I have read "Romeo and Juliet" three times and seen two adaptations of it despite not liking the story. This is mostly a first impression for me, but I am familiar enough with the inspiration to see the parallels.

It is "Romeo and Juliet", but in 1950's West Manhattan with rival gangs instead of rival families.


- Good update to "Romeo and Juliet". The modern setting and language makes it easier to follow and get invested with no need for a Shakespearean dictionary or reference material.

- Colors are bold and striking. Appealing to the eyes.

- Cinematography is very solid with dynamic camera angles, unique introductory shots, and clever transitions for the time period it was released.

- Dance choreography is energized and organized with fun songs to boot.

- Characters are stereotypes, but charming ones with funny banter and nice costumes.

- The confrontational scene between the lead character, Tony (Richard Beymer), and the drugstore owner, Doc (Ned Glass), is pretty dramatic and intensely delivered.

- The depiction of gangs and turf warfare is naively unrealistic.

- A layer of 1960's and Broadway cheesiness coats the entire tone of the film.

- Tony and Maria's (Natalie Wood) romance really tests believability after a pivotal confrontation around halfway into the film. It didn't work for me.

- Some songs feel forced rather than naturally occurring in the moment (Ex: "Cool").

If you can get past the cheesy nature of it, "West Side Story" is a clever, fun update to the iconic (though dated) Shakespearean tale that shines in its Broadway-style visuals, entertaining characters, and lively musical numbers.

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