Thursday, 29 December 2011

West Side Story

West Side Story, 1961
Directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise
Nominated for 11 Oscars, Won 10

Synopsis: You know Romeo and Juliet? Yeah, it's that story, but set in 1960's New York, a gang war between the Peurto Rican's and local New Yorkers, and with guns, knives, dancing and singing. You get the idea.

I don't know if it's because of the day and age we live in, but does it feel like there have been millions of Romeo & Juliet remakes/modern-day tellings/spoofs? While the story has been frightfully overdone, there is a still a lot of creativity in this film. The cinematography was interesting and urban, the art direction was lovely, and the dancing was fantastic. What lacked was the story, and the lines.

I applaud this movie for being very unique looking, urban and beautifully put together, but there were many flaws in the movie I couldn't get over, and it really hindered.

First off, I couldn't get over the fact that many actors in the movies couldn't sing. Sure, Natalie Wood was fantastic, but everyone else was slightly less than good, and it bugged me.

Secondly, Natalie Wood, who plays Maria, is cast as one of the Puerto Ricans, though she is extremely white. This just felt a little less authentic, and authenticity is an important role and something that is weighing heavily the race and colour of a person. The PR's are very proud of their heritage and it is brought up all the time. Yet, they couldn't cast someone of Latin American descent.

Thirdly, I found myself laughing a lot, at the lines. Maybe it's because I'm living in the 2011 while this film was made 60 years ago that I found many of the lines and excessive use of slang extremely cheesy and gaudy. I couldn't take most of the character seriously, and didn't find much about it authentic and heartfelt.

I know, I know, this is such an unpopular opinion, not liking West Side Story. Usually I love musicals from this time, and then complain that they don't make films like this anymore, but I just really didn't like it, and was glad when it finally ended.

As pointed out before, the film truly looked fantastic. The cinematography was great, and so many contrasting colours and looks and backgrounds, that it truly stood out. The art direction and costumes were great and the dancing was really, really good. I feel this would've been better to watch on stage than as a film. You can get away with a lot more in theatre than you can film.

Overall, this film deserved all the art awards it got, though I don't seem to understand why it won best picture. Maybe I'm born in the wrong era to truly appreciate it, or maybe I just didn't like it regardless. Whatever it was, it wasn't my favourite movie, and definitely not my favourite musical.

Acting- 6.5/10 
Directing- 7/10 
Screenplay- 6/10 
Visuals- 7/10 
Music- 7.5/10 
Emotional Connection- 5/10 
Entertainment- 3/10 
Rewatchability- 5/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 4/10 
Overall Package- 5/10       

Total: 56/100

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