West Side Story ★★★★½

A breathtaking feat, West Side Story is an epic contained within a small Manhattan neighborhood. From its balletic opening, to each knock-out musical dance number, Robert Wise's and Jerome Robbins' adaptation of the 1957 stage musical exudes so much joy that it makes its dramatic gut-punches all the more striking. As relevant today as it ever was, its portrayal of racial tension and lawful corruption is harrowing without ever feeling preachy. Incredibly, the love story at the center of the film manages to accent those themes without ever swallowing them up, allowing the viewer to lose themselves in the story's intoxicating romanticism without ever diminishing the real-world parallels that are firmly rooted in its foundation. Leonard Bernstein's songs - with typically dexterous lyrics by Stephen Sondheim - are truly idiosyncratic and presented with more compositional rigor than any stage songs this side of, well, Sondheim. They are stone cold classics, each and every one. West Side Story is an absolute feast for the eyes, ears, and heart and deserves its place as one of the all-time great musicals.

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