It’s the same ol West Side Story, just more authentically realized on film and lavish than ever before. With Spielberg’s command of the camera, dynamic choreography, and a hefty budget to craft a 1950s NYC, the show is injected with a mix of vibrancy and a classic Hollywood mobility that keeps it thriving and alive.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “It’s been a while since I’ve seen a version of West Side Story, but the Jets are so totally the obvious villains by the end of the show and no amount of slick attitude or jazzy snaps can change that. A pox on both these street gangs? Nah, a pox on the Jets and the Jets alone.”
Having limited experience with the Broadway show, this was pretty much my first real interaction with the story. One of the worst things I think I can say about it is that it doesn’t lean hard enough into being the dark comedy I wanted it to be. There are shades of World’s Greatest Dad and even The Killing of a Sacred Deer in this thing, and I think it could have had more ‘fun’ with that.
Other than that, though, while its general awareness of mental health feels very 2016 and there are genuine problems with the depiction, the overall message is an effective “Broadway positive” one and the journey of sadboy Evan, as flawed and downright yikes as it might be at times, resonated with the sadboy writing this VHS review (excuse me, sadboy novelist) at times.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “And yes, the Ben Platt being 27 playing a 17 year old thing. In middle and high school, I had a friend that I remember looking like he had two mortgages and a couple of kids in college. I loved him all the same, even though he looked like a 35 year old undercover cop. This may be my memory playing tricks on me a bit, but the point is that sometimes people–even high schoolers–just look old as fuck at 17. And that’s okay.
Ben Platt doesn’t even look that old in this, to be honest. Because if he looks old at 27, then I must look like a withered old crustyman at 32 and I can’t have that. I can still pass for 17. I will never age. I will never die.”