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West Side Story review roundup: Steven Spielberg’s musical drama is ‘marvelous, arresting, and showstopping’

Director Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, an adaptation of the influential musical of the same name by Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, has received universal acclaim ahead of its release. Based on 58 reviews, the film has a score of 97 per cent on the review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.

The story, inspired by William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, is about two rival gangs in 1950s New York City, belonging to different ethnic groups–the Caucasian American Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks. Complications arise after Ansel Elgort’s Tony, a member of the Jets, and Rachel Zegler’s Maria, a member of Sharks, fall in love. Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, and Mike Faist play supporting roles.

Rita Moreno played the role of Anita in the Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’ 1961 film adaptation of the musical, and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She plays Valentina in Spielberg’s film, and many critics are predicting another Oscar nomination for her.

The reviews hail the new West Side Story as ‘vintage Spielberg’, with praise directed at the visuals, the compelling story and complex characters.

AV Club’s AA Dowd wrote, “Spielberg revels in the opportunity to revive the glamour of a bygone era of Hollywood musicals, all while making some crucial, thoughtful upgrades.”

Thrillist’s Esther Zuckerman said, “How do you honor the past and acknowledge its errors? With thoughtfulness and skill and Rita Moreno.”

The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney wrote, “There’s no pain in surrendering to the sheer beauty and high style of a big-screen entertainment that’s both a reimagining informed by contemporary values and a lavishly mounted throwback.”

London Evening Standard’s Charlotte O’Sullivan pointed out that the film is emotional, in the best way possible. She said, “I started crying at the end of a certain ‘rumble’ and though the film’s stuffed with wit, I more or less didn’t stop.”

Showbiz 411’s Roger Friedman wrote, “West Side Story 2.0 is the perfect distillation of Spielberg, combining fantasy and violence.”

Flickering Myth’s Robert Kojder wrote, “It expands and strengthens every conceivable detail and character. Put it together with marvelous, arresting, showstopping direction, and brilliantly rearranged musical numbers, and it amounts to a cinematic treat that surpasses the original.”

West Side Story is slated to be released on December 10.

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