I Love the New WEST SIDE STORY but My Latino Family and Friends Hate it!
Last Edit: BroadwayTonyJ 01:57 pm EST 01/14/22
Posted by: BroadwayTonyJ 01:55 pm EST 01/14/22
In reply to: Tony Kushner dishes about working with Spielberg and Sondheim on 'West Side Story' (spoilers!) - WaymanWong 03:47 pm EST 01/11/22

I've seen it twice so far and I want to see it one more time before it disappears from movie theaters. It's beautifully shot, acted, and sung. Janusz Kaminski's cinematography is extraordinary -- it's nice that at least one Polack is connected to the film, since Tony is Polish-American. I love the film because overall it is so beautiful to look at, and it is entertaining.

However, it is totally lacking in authenticity and that is what is so upsetting to the Latino members of my family and one of my former boyfriends, who is 100% Puerto Rican. I just spoke to him. He told me incontrovertibly that a Puerto Rican guy would never use a term like "gringo" to refer to a white person. What was Kushner thinking? How could he make a mistake like that? Why didn't Moreno correct him?

Members of my family lived in tenement buildings like those in the film during the mid-50's, my Aunt Millie on Chicago's west side and my Grandma Luzar on the south side. Their apartments were nowhere near as nice as that of Maria and Nardo's. They didn't have parquet bathroom floors or a nice kitchen or pretty furnishings. Ours were very shabby. We weren't poor, just lower middle class. My uncle and grandpa were respected tradesmen with decent jobs, but poorly educated and third generation immigrants from Poland and Czechoslovakia.

My female cousins did not have wardrobes like Maria and Anita. My aunt and grandma did hang laundry out the window, but only during the daytime. The would never have laundry hanging outside in the evening after a rain that would leave puddles on the sidewalks like the one that Tony walks through in the film.

My male cousins and one of my younger uncles actually belonged to white gangs, a Czech one on the west side and a Slovak one on the south. They hated blacks, Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans who were beginning to move into their neighborhood.

My male cousins and uncle may have been charismatic leaders, but they weren't any where near as articulate and witty as Riff or Tony. In fact, they were pretty stupid. At one point in the film Kushner has Riff quote a line from Meredith Willson. Really? Are we supposed to believe that Riff took Graziella to see The Music Man a couple of days before the rumble? A lot of Kushner's dialogue is absolutely risible, which would draw laughter from anyone who grew up in the 50's inner cities.

The gang members in my family did not wear tight designer jeans or smart looking shirts with collars. They dressed like bums with hand-me-down, ill-fitting, baggy pants, I think they might have been called dungarees, something like the Dead End Kids wore in the 30's.

I noticed these details, but just shook them off because I love the music and story of West Side Story. I didn't really expect a couple of elitist, high profile white Jewish film makers like Spielberg and Kushner (who I do respect when they make films about things they are familiar with) to get stuff like this right. Of course, they could have done a better job of researching that period. Anyway, I still like the good things in the film, will see it again next week, and will buy the blu-ray. Unfortunately the Latino members of my family and friends are less forgiving because that is their history and legacy up there on the big screen for all posterity and not really mine.

Previous: Tony Kushner dishes about working with Spielberg and Sondheim on 'West Side Story' (spoilers!) - WaymanWong 03:47 pm EST 01/11/22
Next: re: I Love the New WEST SIDE STORY but My Latino Family and Friends Hate it! - Guillaume 08:56 pm EST 01/15/22

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