‘West Facet Story’ reimagines the unique in Steven Spielberg’s vibrant showcase for its stars

Tailored by playwright Tony Kushner, the movie — described as a “reimagining” of the unique — possesses a grittier edge, immediately connecting gentrification of New York’s slums within the Fifties to the 2 gangs battling over their shrinking turf as if their lives depend upon it. The casting and refined touches, like not subtitling the Spanish dialogue, additionally possess significantly extra cultural authenticity than a interval the place non-Latinx actors could be solid in pivotal roles.

As an added bonus, the filmmakers haven’t solely included Rita Moreno — an Oscar winner for the 1961 film — because the drug-store proprietor, however cleverly expanded that position in a method that showcases her. If the intention was to supply a reminder that the 89-year-old Moreno, a winner of each award conceivable, is a nationwide treasure, mission completed.

Past that, the bones of “West Facet Story,” itself impressed by Romeo and Juliet, stay very a lot intact, with the combo of jaunty tunes and lushly romantic ballads courtesy of Sondheim and composer Leonard Bernstein, in its tragic story of affection at first sight.

Ansel Elgort and newcomer Rachel Zegler play the star-crossed Tony and Maria, whose instantaneous infatuation comes within the midst of racial strife between two gangs: the Sharks, headed by her brother Bernardo (David Alvarez), and the Jets, run by Tony’s longtime pal Riff (Mike Faist), who’s mystified by Tony’s want to go away that brutal life behind.

Whereas the dance numbers are muscularly choreographed, Spielberg has tamped down among the magic related to director Robert Clever’s model, a choice evident when Tony and Maria first meet on the dance. Again then, the world stopped round them; right here, they discreetly retreat to a quiet spot behind the gymnasium bleachers.

It is no slight to the male solid members to say the ladies outshine them. Zegler (who’ll comply with this debut with one other iconic position as Snow White) is positively luminous as Maria, and Ariana DeBose ably fills Moreno’s footwear as Anita, who possesses religion in pursuing an American dream that Bernardo and his rivals have given up hope of reaching.

After all, “West Facet Story” has hardly been dormant within the intervening a long time, with stage revivals and extra high-school productions than anybody might depend. But Spielberg and Kushner have toed a fragile line in crafting a film that displays constancy to the unique whereas tinkering with it in ways in which invite comparisons to the variations — some fully logical, others a bit extra arbitrary.

The movie marks the primary time Spielberg has tackled a musical in his storied and eclectic profession, which makes the trouble an event on that stage. That he has carried out so in a 12 months populated by a number of others, together with “Within the Heights” and “Tick, Tick … Growth!,” displays how cycles shift and the urge for food for content material has grown.

Finally, “West Facet Story” passes the “why” take a look at and can seemingly depart followers debating which model they like. Even these of the opinion there wasn’t a burning want for a redo — reimagined or in any other case — ought to conclude there’s a spot for this one too.

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“West Facet Story” premieres in US theaters on Dec. 10. It is rated PG-13.

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