A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that West Side Story is an updated Romeo and Juliet story that explores race relations and immigration within a musical format. Street fighting and knifings are depicted, though some of the violence is lessened by the choreography. In one disturbing scene, a gang of boys physically abuses a young woman and a rape almost takes place. A major character is killed.
What's the story?
A classic American musical with strong social commentary, WEST SIDE STORY updates Shakespeare's tragedy about star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, to 1950s New York City, where second-generation American street gang the Jets, led by Riff (Russ Tamblyn), are at constant odds with rival Puerto Rican gang the Sharks. A showdown is inevitable, but love gets in the way when Jets member Tony (Richard Beymer) falls for Maria (Natalie Wood), the sister of Sharks leader Bernardo (George Chakiris). People die and hearts get broken.
Is it any good?
Co-directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, this beautiful musical is a visual masterpiece packed with talent. The music of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim is unforgettable, as are the Oscar-winning performances of George Chakiris as Bernardo and Rita Moreno as Anita, the spunky girlfriend of Bernardo and confidant of Maria.
The raging emotions of the characters are expressed through song and dance (Jerome Robbins' choreography mixes jazz, ballet, and Latin influences), resulting in a kinetic display of emotion more expressive than words. Stylish street-wise sets and cinematic technique take West Side Story to another level, rich with visual symbolism.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the issues of racism, immigration, gangs, and youth culture. What do you think the two gangs in West Side Story would say about the American Dream?
What kinds of stereotypes are explored in this movie? Does the movie serve to challenge or reinforce stereotypes?
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