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I did something I rarely do Friday when I chose walking out of Nightmare Alley over hari kari (now the latter would have been a carnival side show!). Just depression with all caps with zero chemistry between Mara and Cooper, as well as zippo for Cooper and the two ‘etts’: Blanch’ett’ and Coll’ett’e. Blah.
On the other gloriously beautiful hand, there was Saturday night where I went in with skeptic eyes to see West Side Story and walked out in love with Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner’s remake. Ansel Elgort (who seemed to be getting flack in reviews) was fantastic. Sure he might seem too soft, but the emotional and sexual concoction between he and Rachel Zegler are dynamite. The dancing and choreography were gorgeously shot and the hyper-realism panned by some critics, I found mesmerizing. Color saturation felt like a spa bath after the dismal Seattle-esque dreary Nightmare Alley.
Two more actors who stood out in West Side Story were Ariana DeBose and Mike Faist. Ariana not only has tremendous singing and dancing talent, I believed her as the toughie with a big heart, her tears moving me. Mike Faist as Riff, while playing a despicably broken young man, has the ability to act with such poignancy that we root for his humanity despite his antipathy.
In conclusion, while unfair to compare a former and now current American musical classic such as West Side Story, del Torro with some writing, casting and setting changes could have made us care about this motley crew even without show tunes and dance. I’m sure Spielberg is open for tutoring!