West Side Story (2021) Film Review – Modernization of a Classic Love Story


Film West Side Story (2021) is the second adaptation of one of thetheater musical broadwaybest known of all time. Inspired by William Shakespeare’s sonnet Romeo & Juliet , West Side Story tells the love story of two people of different races: Tony (Ansel Elgort), a white man and Maria (Rachel Zegler), a Latina woman from Puerto Rico.

Race is not the only thing that separates them, but also the conflict between the two gangs in which they belong. The battle of two teenage gangs between Jet ( a white gang) against the Sharks ( a Puerto Rican gang) with the backdrop of the depression after World War II became the main setting of the West Side Story film from beginning to end.
Stephen Spielberg, a veteran director who is best known for his adventure genre films , looks very paradoxical in his first attempt at directing a musical film. Spielberg was able to replicate and update the West Side Story film .

As previously mentioned, this 2021 adaptation more clearly shows the depression years of the 1950s, when New Yorkers were hit by an economic recession.

When compared with Spielberg’s adaptation, West Side Story (1961) clearly looks like a cheap film in terms of production value. Naturally, Spielberg’s West Side Story (2021) takes up almost 10 times the budget. On the other hand, the previous film is also not very authentic because the cast line is dominated by Caucasians (even for the role of Puerto Rican figures) when the film tells the struggle of two communities of different races. Spielberg corrected this by balancing the cast and incorporating dialogues with the Puerto Rican dialect.

In terms of acting, it can be said that all the actors play a very good role in this film. They really brought the electric energy from the musical into the film. But of all the actors, the one that needs thumbs up is Rachel Zegler. Her role as Maria is her debut, but she is able to bring emotions and chemistry that is very believeable with Ansel Elgort’s Tony.

In terms of sound, unfortunately, Ansel Elgort is a bit lacking when compared to Rachel Zegler and a bit unbalanced when they duet. However, when singing a solo song, Ansel Elgort’s voice is surprisingly good .

Overall, the film West Side Story (2021) appears more optimal and energetic than its predecessor. Even so, Spielberg’s adaptation is not like peanuts forgetting the skin because apart from improving and upgrading many aspects of the 1961 adaptation, Spielberg was able to make his adaptation feel both familiar and new .