Story at a glance

  • Director Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” is earning early praise for not having English subtitles.
  • The film is a remake of late Stephen Sondheim’s and Leonard Bernstein’s musical play “West Side Story.”
  • Most of the Spanish spoken in the film is not subtitled nor is it repeated in English.

Four-time Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg is receiving praise for his choice to leave out subtitles during conversations in Spanish in his remake of “West Side Story,” according to Variety. 

The film, which is scheduled to hit U.S. theaters on Dec. 10, is a remake of late playwright Stephen Sondheim’s and composer Leonard Bernstein’s 1957 Broadway hit loosely based on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” 

The story takes place in 1950s Upper West Side and follows the rivalry between two gangs, the Sharks, mostly made up of Puerto Ricans, and the Jets, who are mostly New Yorkers of Polish and Irish descent, and a romance between former Jets member Tony and Maria, sister of the Sharks leader.


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Sondhiem’s play and the subsequent smash-hit 1961 movie famously cast predominantly non-Latino actors to play the Sharks and their families.

Spielberg’s forthcoming reboot is already getting positive reviews particularly for the changes he has made to the film like jazzing up its musical numbers and improving the diversity of the cast. In the original film, the characters of Maria and her brother Bernardo were played by two non-Latino actors Natalie Wood and George Chakiris. But in Spielberg’s remake, the parts were given to Colombian-American actor and singer Rachel Zegler and Cuban-Canadian actor David Alvarez, according to Yahoo. The supporting Sharks characters are also portrayed by Latino actors. 

In addition, Spielberg has received praise for forgoing English subtitles under the long stretches of Spanish dialogue between the Puerto Rican characters in order to “lend the movie an extra touch of authenticity,, the outlet reported. The director as well as screenwriter Tony Kushner have been praised by early viewers for their choice to include more Spanish and Spanglish dialogue than what the characters spoke in the original. 


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Published on Dec 02, 2021