Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"West Side Story" a modern-day Romeo & Juliet

By Tiffany Young
While it seems odd to call a movie modern when it was released in the 1960s, compared to Shakespeare's time that's what it is. "West Side Story" tells about two gangs—the Jets and the Sharks—and how love does not understand racial differences.

Tony, who used to be a Jet, now has a respectable job and wants to stay out of trouble, but when the gang asks him to come to a dance he thinks he may find what he's looking for, though he's not sure what that is. He finds it in Maria (Natalie Wood), the sister of Bernardo—a Shark. Maria has just come to America from Puerto Rico and does not want to marry Chino, who her parents and brother would like her to marry. When Maria's and Tony's eyes meet the world fades and they know they have found love.

However, Bernardo will have none of it and sends Maria home the moment he sees her kissing Tony, a white man from the other gang. But Tony goes up and down the alley behind Maria's home until he finds her later that night when they decide they will meet again the next day.

When they meet at the bridal store Maria works at after work, Maria convinces Tony to stop a fight between the two gangs that evening, but when he gets there he ends up being provoked and forced to fight and kills Bernardo, Maria's brother, after Bernardo accidentally kills one of the Jet's gang members. When he goes to Maria to tell her what he's done she is angry at first, but ends up forgiving him and agrees to meet later and run away with him.

Tony waits for Maria, but she is held up by a police questioning her about the dance the night before and attempting to find out how her bother was murdered. She sends her brother's girlfriend to tell Tony she will be late, but after the gang mistreats her, she tells them Chino found about about Tony and Maria and shot Maria. When Tony finds out, he is devastated, but then he sees Maria calling out to him. They run to one another and as they are falling into each others' arms, Chino shoots Tony in revenge of him killing Bernardo.

Maria comforts him until his death and then threatens both gangs that she will kill them all and then herself, but when the police officer shows up, she drops to her knees and cries as members of both gangs pick Tony up to carry him off in a procession.

While the movie starts out slow, it picks up quickly and its memorable songs and heartfelt scenes makes it a memorable classic. It's a real treat for those who love musicals and enjoy dancing. Instead of fighting, most of the fight scenes have more arabesques and finger snapping than punches and kicks. It's nice to see a movie that can tell what happened without all the blood and guts—and it didn't hurt its ratings either. The show won 10 Academy Awards and Best picture, the only musical ever to do so.

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