|The longest introduction EVER.|
I have never seen West Side Story. As a part of the ongoing goal to see one classic movie I have never seen during each month of my “I have never...” journey, sitting through West Side Story seemed to make sense. After all, the film is one of the most acclaimed musicals of all time and still claims the title of earning the most academy awards of any musical film in history. Additionally, people have told me about West Side Story’s amazing story and memorable soundtrack since I was a kid. As such, I prepared to make West Side Story an experience relatively early in my “I have never...” journey. Given today’s unseasonably cool temperatures and spotty weather, I figured tonight was as good as any to see the film. As a result, Rachael helped me track down a copy of West Side Story, and I settled to watch the film for the first time tonight.
|I dance to intimidate.|
My immediate reaction to the sight of the opening sequence was one that would remain with me throughout the film. I found it incredibly hard to take the developing plot seriously at the sight of grown men pretending to be young gangsters settling scores with dance fights and songs. In my mind these two things were so opposite one another I couldn’t put them on the same plain. Although I understood the dancing and music was intended to express the emotion and turmoil of the goings on in the New York neighborhood in which the Sharks and Jets lived, I just couldn’t pull the idea of ballet dancing gang members together. Regardless, I stayed focus on the film and resolved to watch it to completion. In turn, I let the film progress, which led to an unraveling story of forbidden love.
|Tony meets Maria|
|Tony sings with Maria|
While the story around Riff, Bernardo, Tony, and Maria developed I couldn’t help but feel as though the struggle between societal classes and the love that crossed these bounds was somewhat familiar. As Tony and Maria’s feelings flourished and the turf war between the Jets and Sharks came to a head, I realized the story was simply a twist on the classic plot of Romeo and Juliet. This discovery prompted me to start looking at the musical through a different lens, which made the unfolding events all too predictable. Sure, the songs were catchy and the cinematography was memorable, but the plot was familiar and aged. I knew what was coming before it happened, and that never makes for a good movie watching experience.
|Dance fighting with knives?!? Now it's getting real.|
|Romeo... er Tony, bites the dust.|
Tonight’s experience with the West Side Story was one of the rare instances where I didn’t take a lot away from an “I have never...” event. Maybe I didn’t approach the film prepared to look past the obvious contradictions gangsters dancing and singing show tunes, or maybe this one was just too far outside of my personal preferences. Whatever the reason, it is safe to say West Side Story will not be a film or a musical I revisit again. I just didn’t find enough to take away from the film, which limits its value to me. If anything, at least I can now say I finally saw West Side Story, even if it is likely that will not occur again.