West Side Story (1961)

I like musicals.  I did not know much about West Side Story outside of the typical.  Street gangs singing and fighting with each other.

So when Fathom Events showed West Side Story, the winner of 10 Academy Awards that year, I wanted to see it.

I have to say… I was disappointed.

First, the pre-show told me that Tony was played by the same guy who played Ben Horne and Russ Tamblyn, who was Riff, played Dr. Jacoby, both in Twin Peaks.  I spent much of the movie trying to see Jacoby and Ben in the face and movements of Tony and Riff.  It was a bit of a distraction.

Secondly, I kept waiting for songs that I recognized and I was surprised that I did not know very many.

While I thought the acting was wonderful and the dancing was amazing, I had some definite problems with the movie.

I did not buy the relationship between Tony and Maria (Natalie Wood).  They met one day at a dance and then were in complete love five minutes later.  Then, Tony kills her brother in the rumble after telling her that he was going to stop it from happening.  He came back to her after, she called him a murderer, and then they had sex.  What?  She was ready to kill herself at the end of the movie over his death when she met him one day before.  Since I had trouble buying their relationship, that makes everything else in the film not work.

Rita Moreno was tremendous, but I was unbelievably uncomfortable with the dance scene that was heading towards the Jets preparing to rape her in Doc’s shop.  In today’s world with the issues of immigration, the way they spoke to her during this scene made me hate these characters.

Some of the dance/music felt like the wrong tone for what was happening on the screen.

I was really bored in the first half of the film.  I will say that, after the intermission, I enjoyed the second half better.  The rumble scene was very solid.

The music and choreography was great but I keep going back to my problem with Tony and Maria and I just could not get past it.  After one day I just can’t believe that they would be that much in love to survive Tony killing her brother.

I am glad I saw it, but, for me, West Side Story is…



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