London’s review published on Letterboxd:
The cinematography, the choreography, the music: so much of West Side Story is brilliantly done. But the opposite side of that: the constant use of brown face, the terrible acting, the diminishing quality of writing as the film goes on, very few interesting characters; these all add up to things that just make the movie pretty uninspired outside of its Musical moments.
Richard Beymer is a fantastic dancer, and his songs were pretty strong as well. But man his delivery on most of his lines was pretty rough. For whatever reason I just found Natalie Wood and him to be without any chemistry in their scenes together, so this Romeo & Juliet story just didn't work, because no matter how many times the movie tried to shove down the notion that these two were in love, I never believed it.
I will say that for its runtime it goes by pretty quickly. The transitions to songs are pretty fun and I loved all the dance numbers. But I would hope with a movie being 2 and a half hours the creators would be able to give some interesting characterization to anyone but the leads. Instead we just get a bunch of faces that run around yelling occasionally. Even at that, Tony and Maria don't really have a lot of character to them, besides being in love and being sick of their respective families in one way or another. The whole story is just hopelessly hollow, and most of that involves being attached to a subpar Shakespeare property.
I am convinced that George Chakiris had at this point, never met a Puerto Rican person in his life. The accent he puts on for most of his screen time sounds like a Vampire more than anything else. It was baffling. It was also just so hard to take the movie seriously when its Puerto Rican characters were so obviously wearing Brown Face. I have enjoyed films in the past that have had white actors playing POC, but it is a very big bump in the road. A film has to be truly amazing in every other capacity, and unfortunately West Side Story had quite a lot of problems.
But by god was the music great.