West Side Story Reviews
Most liberals preach all racial bias emanates from Whites. As a white kid who often dated Hispanic girls, and who lived for a while in the Mexican quarter of Tucson, Arizona, I have experienced as much or more racial bias by Hispanics than I ever saw by Whites. Oh, Hispanic girls are interested in white guys, but their brothers, cousins, fathers, uncles, and even their mothers are all too often ferociously opposed.
So, for me, the depiction of bias by both the white Jets gang members and the Hispanic Sharks gang members against each other rang more true to my own experience, making the movie experience all that more realistic, relevant, and assimilative.
The main characters are Anita (Rita Moreno) as the fiery, dark-skinned hottie and girlfriend of Bernardo (George Chakiris), leader of the Sharks and older brother of the light-skinned María (Natalie Wood), who is the ingénue object of affection of Tony (Richard Beymer) a white boy who has just become enamored of the Hispanic Maria. Riff (Russ Tamblyn), Tony's best pal and current leader of the Jets, doesn't make life any easier for the budding romance.
The story line starts off highlighting the ethnic mutual animosity between the Sharks and the Jets. Then Tony accidentally sees Maria at a dance, the two are drawn together almost immediately. They are separated by Bernardo, and Maria is forbidden to see Tony. In the meantime, friction between the Sharks and Jets has escalated to the point the two gangs decide to rumble. Tony secretly meets Maria in the alley by her flat, and she sends Tony to try to prevent the two gangs from fighting. Instead Tony gets sucked into the fray as Riff is killed by Bernardo, and in retaliation Tony kills Bernardo.
Tony goes back to Maria and confesses his failure to prevent the rumble that resulted in the death of Biff and her brother Bernardo. Tony and Maria vow to run away together. Maria sends Anita to tell Tony where to meet her, but Anita is mistreated by the Jets and instead tells Tony that Chino (Felipe Rangel) has killed Maria. Other Jets tell Tony that Chino has a gun and is hunting for him. Tony in abject grief, not wanting to live without Maria, goes looks for Chino and begs him to shoot him too. Chino kills Tony, and then Maria arrives at the scene hoping to find Tony and run off together. Instead she and finds Tony dead. She at first doesn't want anyone to touch Tony, but finally members of each gang help carry Tony's body off..
The story ends at this point.
This story line is now somewhat dated after fifty years, though aspects of it may still be relevant today wherever large numbers of an immigrant group settle together in one place. The very culture they bring with them that binds then together, also acts to delay and in some cases prevent assimilation into the general population. But the large influx of Hispanics into the US has largely abated and assimilated. If any bias remains, it is from Hispanics who set themselves apart.
Another aspect of the ethnic divide theme, which was not treated in the storyline, are religious differences. Hispanics are almost universally Roman Catholic, while whites tend more toward Protestant denominations. When ethnic differences don't provide much barrier, religious differences often do. When ethnic and religious differences combine to be exclusionary, it is a most formidable chasm to cross.
All in all, it's worth the watch but watch out for the cons of it being made in the 1950's.
Although a musical it touches on many great themes & issues of the day e.g. racial intolerance, gang mentality & urban lower demographic living.
Splashed with color & iconic musical numbers this is also a breakthrough film for Natalie Wood. Although dated in aspects this film has tremendous pull & I'm sure would be an unforgettable experience on stage on Broadway.
"West Side Story" is undoubtedly a work of artistic genius. Every set piece is painted in rich, emotive color. The choreography bulldozes through the supposed limits of the human body. The music is (mostly) one show-stopping tune after another, burrowing like a mass of earworms into your brain. It's fun, fun, fun with a capital "F" and its influence can still be felt years later. "La La Land" in particular owes this film a huge debt. Without its groundbreaking camerawork and kinetic choreography, we wouldn't have "Another Day in the Sun" or any of its freeway-stomping madness.
It isn't all unmitigated fun though. I'm going to echo the words of my girlfriend in saying that the leads are the weakest part of this film, both in performance and how they're written in the screenplay. Tony and Maria are two wet blankets whose Romeo and Juliet love story has all the trappings of the classic story, but none of youthful lust that is supposed to make their coupling petulant but believable. Natalie Wood at least has a go at bringing a Latina fire to her role (she's Russian *cough cough*), but she and co-star Richard Beymor pale in comparison to the blazing spotlights of Anita (Rita Morenco) and Bernardo (George Chakiris). They are the film's real draw. Forget the setting, the bland retread of a story, or the sliver of logic that escapes everyone involved. "West Side Story" is the Morenco and Chakiris show.
If you sit down expecting a gorgeously mounted song and dance showcase and let trivial things like story and character development slide, there's hardly a more thrilling ride than "West Side Story." This is one case of a boatload of Oscars (11 in total) well deserved. 7.1/10