West Side Story (1961)

West Side Story has to be one of the most popular and recognized Best Winners in history. What started on the stages of Broadway turned into a motion picture event that went on to capture 10 Acamedy Awards. This film is held in such high regard that many other musicals have been compared to this gem. 

It may have taken my entire life to finally watch West Side Story. The main reason was mostly that I am not a huge fan of musicals and never thought this story would be for me. Even though this particular story, set in New York City, is a carbon copy of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, I was still skeptical of my interest. 

Within a few minutes of the opening sequence, I knew exactly why this film went on to win so many awards: the dancing and the singing. I can’t imagine the time and effort that went into rehearsing every number. Everyone associated with the production poured everything into their characters, and you can just see how alive the story felt. 

I can’t really knock the story for being an exact replica of the classic tale because this version’s uniqueness makes it a completely different experience. It was fun to see two rival gangs try to out bully the other. When you watch West Side Story in 2021, you can’t help but chuckle at how racist the songs and characters are. Sadly what the boys and girls say to each other isn’t out of line for the early 1960s. The majority of this stuff wouldn’t fly today, including the Sharks wearing dark makeup to portray their Puerto Rican roots. I am willing to bet the reimaging project, set to be released soon, won’t hammer away at the Spanish culture like the original does. These stereotype comments and songs make the story so interesting and dramatic, so it may not feel the same. 

As we know, I am not the world’s biggest musical fan, so having said that, I could have gone without a handful of the songs. It seems to mean to say that because if there was no singing, there would be no awesome dance sequences. Moments like that made watching the film entertaining, despite already knowing the ending. Although if you think you know how this film ends, let me tell you it doesn’t go down like the Shakespearean play, which was surprising. 

The only thing I’m still confused about, now that I’ve seen the movie, the Robin Williams joke from one of his standup routines in the early 2000s. I may have to go back and watch his skit because now I want to connect them. 

Overall, West Side Story ended up as one of the more entertaining musicals I’ve seen so far. Still not the best and far from the worse. I can understand why so many people hold this one near and dear to their hearts. 6/10

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