The authentic 1961 movie received 10 Oscars, together with Best Picture. But for many years this retelling of “Romeo and Juliet” by means of the lens of White and Puerto Rican gangs in New York has been panned by Puerto Ricans who felt insulted by the way in which characters from the island have been portrayed.
The songs are largely the identical, however the story is totally different in a number of notable methods — particularly in terms of the film’s Puerto Rican characters.
Here’s a take a look at how the brand new “West Side Story” responds to a number of the missteps of the unique movie.
How Spielberg tried to resolve the issue of Maria
Natalie Wood performed Maria within the 1961 movie, with Marni Nixon’s voice dubbed in for all of the heroine’s songs. Neither considered one of them was Puerto Rican, and even Latina; many of the film’s solid wasn’t, both.
Zegler’s been getting rave evaluations for her efficiency. Still, not everyone seems to be offered on the casting selection.
There’s nobody carrying brownface on this film
In the unique “West Side Story,” lots of the actors taking part in Puerto Rican characters have been compelled to put on the identical darkish brown make-up — even Rita Moreno, who’s Puerto Rican and performed the character of Anita.
When she raised that time on set, Moreno mentioned she obtained a shocking response.
“The make-up man really mentioned to me, ‘What? Are you a racist?’ I used to be so flabbergasted that I could not come again with a solution.”
Thankfully, nobody within the 2021 movie is carrying brownface. A various solid of actors are taking part in Puerto Rican characters, together with Ariana DeBose, who’s Afro-Latina and performs Anita.
And this time round, Moreno’s observations weren’t dismissed. She performs a brand new character written for this model, Valentina. She was an government producer of the film. And she frequently spoke with the solid about what it was like rising up as a Puerto Rican in America.
The phrases to an iconic track have modified
For many followers, “America” is likely one of the most beloved and well-known songs from “West Side Story.” The rousing dance quantity can also be a searing debate between Anita and her boyfriend Bernardo over the prices and advantages of migration to the US mainland.
But lots of the lyrics sung by Anita painted Puerto Rico in a destructive mild, in each the 1957 musical (“island of tropical ailments”) and the 1961 film (“let it sink again within the ocean”).
That drew criticism when Spielberg and Kushner traveled to the University of Puerto Rico in 2018 to fulfill with college students and college for enter whereas they have been making the brand new film.
“No one leaves this island with out sobbing,” Isel Rodriguez mentioned. “Three hundred thousand individuals left the island after Maria and the scene on the airport was like a funeral.”
In the top, Spielberg’s model of “America” cuts the track’s most controversial strains. There’s nobody wishing an island the place thousands and thousands of individuals stay ought to sink into the ocean.
By paring down the lyrics, the brand new model sharpens the main target of the track to the talk over whether or not life on the US mainland is sweet or unhealthy for Puerto Ricans, relatively than dragging Puerto Rico and its individuals by means of the mud.
The Sharks lastly get backstories
Broadway composer and lyricist Lin Manuel-Miranda, whose mother and father moved to New York from Puerto Rico, has mentioned that for Latinos, “West Side Story” has been “our best blessing and our best curse.”
In the unique film, the Caucasian Jets additionally get much more display screen time than the Sharks, their Puerto Rican rivals. In this model, the Sharks are nonetheless gang members, however we lastly get an opportunity to study extra about a few of them.
Tony Kushner’s screenplay creates again tales for Puerto Rican characters that within the authentic have been two-dimensional at greatest, and stereotypical at worst.
In the 2021 movie, Chino goes to high school to be an accountant. Bernardo is a boxer who got here to New York extra just lately. Anita is a seamstress who’s saving cash as a result of she needs to open her personal costume store sometime. Maria and her buddies work on a cleansing crew at Gimbels division retailer.
Valentina, the brand new character written for this film, is a widow working her retailer and attempting to navigate life between two cultures. And everybody who lives of their neighborhood — Sharks and Jets alike — is about to get evicted so wrecking balls can tear down their houses to make means for the development of Lincoln Center.
Spanish is spoken way more — and with a Puerto Rican accent
A number of Spanish phrases have been sprinkled into the unique “West Side Story” — usually delivered with accents that sounded extra like Americans overacting than the way in which Puerto Ricans dwelling in New York really communicate.
The Spanish in Spielberg’s movie is delivered with trademark Puerto Rican phrases and accents. It’s spoken — with none subtitles — in intimate scenes like conversations between Maria and Anita at dwelling.
And the one time it sounds stilted is smart within the story — when non-native audio system like Tony, Maria’s Polish-American love curiosity, try to say one thing in Spanish.
The crew behind this film tried to do their homework
Spielberg and Kushner took a distinct tack, spending time researching Puerto Rican communities that lived in New York in 1957, when the musical is ready. The go to to the University of Puerto Rico was considered one of many conversations.
Kushner has mentioned the crew behind the movie additionally met with historical past consultants and labored with native audio system — together with dancers and actors within the solid — to ensure the Spanish phrases have been written and used accurately.
But the jury’s nonetheless out on whether or not that can persuade Puerto Ricans who have been uncomfortable with — or outraged by — the unique film to provide this “West Side Story” an opportunity.