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‘Feels like an Oscar contender’: West Side Story remake draws glowing first reactions from critics

Critics have shared their exuberant first reactions to Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story.

The classic musical, based on the story of Romeo and Juliet, has been adapted by the filmmaker for a new film starring Ansel Elgort and newcomer Rachel Zegler.

Early reactions to the film have been shared on social media by critics, with the verdict being almost unanimously positive.

In one tweet, Variety’s Brent Lang wrote that the film was “bold and stirring”.

“The best parts are Tony Kushner’s book and the dramatic reimagining of classic numbers such as ‘America’ and ‘Somewhere’,” he wrote. “Ansel was a bit flat, but the rest of the cast is great and it feels like an #Oscars contender.”

The Observer critic Simran Hans wrote: “I’m most impressed with the new West Side Story’s staging. It feels more like a world than a set. And Ariana DeBose is magnetic as Anita, for me it’s her film. However Ansel is straining.”

The i’s Christina Newland said: “West Side Story is beautifully staged and mounted, effective in reframing some major musical numbers, but largely so faithful that even its handsomeness feels like: what is the point of all this exactly?”

“The new #WestSideStory definitely has that Spielberg magic – but if you don’t already love old-school musicals, it probably ain’t gonna win you over. Still, it looks gorgeous, and the female leads (esp. Ariana DeBose) and choreography are superb,” wrote AFP’s Andrew Marszal.

Others also singled out Hamilton star Ariana DeBose for particular praise. In the film, she plays Maria’s close friend Anita, a role inhabited by Rita Moreno in the 1961 adaptation.

“Ariana DeBose is the MVP & truly deserves to be headlining her own musical,” wrote critic Scott Menzel.

Moreno has a new supporting role in Spielberg’s adaptation and also serves as executive producer.

West Side Story is out in cinemas on 10 December.