Spielberg was not going to make the mistake of Lin-Manuel Miranda, who was called out for his lack of Afro-Latinx actors in “In The Heights.” West Side Story avoids “whitewashing” racial casting by casting actors of color, as well as actors with true Latinx heritage.
West Side Story, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski and the production design team brought the story to life and gave it the artistic feel of a Broadway musical with a big budget production. Scenes were colorful and over-the-top when needed, and dark, gloomy, and slum-like in other darker scenes.
Rachel Zegler, who plays Maria, was a joy to watch and exuded the beauty and innocence that embody her character. Her chemistry with Ansel Elgort (Tony) was quite believable, but it was her angelic voice that stole the show in every musical rendition number she sang.
It was Ariana DeBose, who plays Anita, who lit up every scene. Perhaps she had an advantage with Moreno being part of the film, considering she won an Oscar for her performance as Anita and could offer DeBose advice on her role. DeBose had the flashy dance moves, magnetic personality, and heart-wrenching emotions that audiences could easily connect with.
The story in itself is a Romeo and Juliet modern day tale, and this remake is as good as the original, if not better. It also feels like the timing of this remake is very appropriate considering today’s tense climate between sides, whether political, cultural, or ideological.