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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Love in the Trenches

West Side Story on IMDb

Plot Overview

paintercop lecturingLincoln's faceNew York's master architect Robert Moses has slated broad swaths of the West Side for removal to make room for The Lincoln Center Apartments. Ignoring this larger threat an Anglo gang calledmen's dance line the Jets strut down the street on their merry way to remove a large graffito of their rival Puerto Rican gang the Sharks.shark This tense situation is broken up by New York's finest: Officer Krupke (Brian d'Arcy James) & Lieutenant Schrank (Corey Stoll.) The latter gives them a stern lecture saying immigrants are supposed to crawl out of this stinking hole and make a life for them­selves. Those who spent their time drinking instead of working bore the loser children these kids find themselves to be.

applying makeupAn aging drug store owner, widow Valentina (Ria Moreno) advises recently-released-from-prison Tony (Ansel Elgort,) the erst­while leader of the Jets, to stay straight. Mrs. Valentina of Puerto Rico had been married to Doc an Anglo, but they made it work—all marriages have difficulties. Leader of the Sharks Bernardo Vasquez (David Alvarez) and his girl­friend Anita (Ariana DeBose) and his eighteen-year-old sister Maria (Rachel Zegler) are domestic partners in a shared apartment, splitting the rent three ways. When the cops need some­one to look at some bodies and see if one of them isn't Bernardo, either of the two women will do; she doesn't have to be related to him, just so she knows him well enough to identify the corpse. Bernardo has set up his sister with his friend Chino (Josh Andrés Rivera) to escort her to a dance attended by both gangs.

mischievous boy w/slingAt the dance Tony and Maria fall hard for each other, and they meet later in a chapel and exchange pseudo wedding vows but there are no witnesses to legitimize it. Their circles are rival gangs planning a rumble to determine who dominates the West Side, a moot point now that it's been condemned. Tony promises Maria he'll stop the fight. Easier said than done, so they're planning an elopement (“Run away with me.”)


Some Jets discuss the advantages to being American and that Puerto Rico is America though not one of its 48 states—it's 1957. The plot further explores the limits to America's sacred rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Concerning Thomas Jefferson's guarantee of the right to life, we note that directly after Noah's flood came God's instigation of capital punishment: (Gen. 9:6) “Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” In this movie is found murder and retribution. In the humorous follow-up gang movie “Analyze That” (2002) featuring a street gang out of East Harlem singing the same show tunes as in this one, the widow of a slain leader wants to quash rumors that she'd done it, New York having the death penalty in 2002.

Welcome to America
Now Speak EnglishGod also limited our pursuit of happiness when he confused our languages at the tower of Babel (Gen. 11:5-9) so we'd have a harder time defining our (wicked) goals to each other. The Sharks were constantly exhorting each other to “speak English” even among them­selves where they were more fluent in Spanish, They'd succeed better in their host country if they mastered their lingo (“I don't speak spic.”) In “Analyze That” two cooperating Italian gangs did quite well on their joint venture. A handicap of gangs speaking different tongues, how­ever, is a limit on the mischief they can cause as well as on their pursuit of happiness in the broader society.

Our guarantee of liberty also had a limit set back in Noah's day having to do with his sons' lines. (Gen. 9:18-19) “And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan. These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread.” There was an incident, Gen. 9:20-22, where Noah got drunk on wine and was exposed in all his glory to his son Ham who brazenly viewed him so. Noah's other two sons, Shem and Japheth, covered him up, Gen. 9:23. Ham had mocked him to his two brothers, Gen. 9:24. Noah's curse puts Ham's youngest son Canaan in a position of servitude, Gen. 9:25. Noah's other two sons Shem, Gen. 9:26, and Japheth, Gen. 9:27, were blessed by Noah. Canaan in Ham's line was probably singled out for mention because of the Canaanites' later dealings with the Semitic Israelites. More germane to modern times is perhaps the lineage of Cush. Cush was also a son of Ham (Gen. 10:6), settling in Africa. Cush is Hebrew meaning black. From Shem come the Semites, of course. Writer Bodie Hodge holds forth that: “Generally, from the Middle East in the land of Shinar (modern-day Iraq, where Babel was), Japheth's descendants went north toward Europe and Asia, Ham's went toward Africa, and Shem's remained in the Middle East” (183), and that “As a general trend, Ham is the father of many peoples in Africa” (122). Dr. Ide adds, “Ham sired four sons: Cush (translates as ‘black’) … and Canaan the youngest” (62.) Egypt was known to the Jews as “the land of Ham” (Psalm 105:23 & Psalm 106:21-22).

cleaning housequilting In “West Side Story” Bernardo is a boxer with ambitions and side gigs. Anita is a seamstress hoping to do better. The other girls in her group tidy up the department store and hope to some day afford those elegant wares for them­selves. An unnamed Negro contentedly sweeps up the auditorium floor. Tony is a drug store helper who'd just got out of prison for having beat up an Egyptian immigrant—not supposed to do that. In “Analyze That” (2002) a group of blacks enjoying their hard-won right to eat in a tony restaurant must give up their bread basket to a neighboring table of Italians. Their White waiter just released from prison hadn't got the Yankee memo. Author Mickey Spillane informs us that:

“They got groups in the joint, you know.” He saw me frowning and added, “Racial groups, I mean, and political groups. They stay separated. Black power, white Nazis, yellow yakuza. They keep to themselves—” (121)

Production Values

” (2021) was directed by Steven Spielberg. Its screenplay was written by Tony Kushner based on the stage play and book by Arthur Laurents. It stars Ansel Elgort, Ariana DeBose, Rachel Zegler, David Alvarez, Corey Stoll, Brian d'Arcy James and Mike Faist. There's a regretable lack of sexual chemistry between Elgort and Zegler. Elgort is a lousy actor but a good dancer. He can sing okay, too, just not act. Zegler does a great Maria. Arrianna DeBose and Mike Faist hold their own as Anita the put-upon Shark moll and Riff the newbie Jets leader. The supporting cast was swell.

MPAA rated it PG–13 for some strong violence, strong language, thematic content, suggestive material and brief smoking. It seems like it was trying to convey a message of some sort. The original 1961 version was based on the hit Broadway and West End show, with music composed by Leonard Bernstein, and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Their best songs all survive here. The dance numbers are bright and stimulating. Numerous closeups with soft, focused lighting high­light the emotions.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

The ur-plot is Romeo and Juliet, transferred from Renaissance Verona to 1957 Big Apple. It doesn't quite take a bite out of crime, but it does pop a baloon. Sweet tragedy this one. The music is spell­binding. It's a modernized classic that I'm sure does justice to some­one's vision but I'm a mite too dense to see it. Still, I appreciated this great movie.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years with guidance. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good Date Movie. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software, print.

Hodge, Bodie. Tower of Babel: The Cultural History of Our Ancestors. Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Pub., 2013. Print.

Ide, Arthur Frederick. Noah & the Ark: The Influence of Sex, Homo­phobia and Hetero­sexism in the Flood Story and its Writing. Las Colinas: Monument Press, 1992. Print.

Spillane, Mickey. The Goliath Bone.. Copyright © 2008 by Mickey Spillane Publishing LLC. Orlando: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, First Edition. Print.