Gee Office Krupke, Krup You!
BQB here with a review of “West Side Story,” 3.5 readers.
Though it won the Oscar for best picture, this movie has been criminally underrated ever since, basically being lost to the annals of musical aficionados rather than watched by everyone as it should be.
Every generation thinks it is the first to discover a whole host of societal issues – race, crime, poverty, immigration and so on. Truthfully, each generation deals with these issues in their own way and the older folk are left to babble on, reminding everyone these issues have been around forever.
In the 1960s, the Jets (white kids) and the Sharks (Puerto Rican kids) fight for turf in the Upper West Side of New York City. Their “fights” are well choreographed dance routines where they dance at each other with reckless abandon. Both sides feel the other is encroaching on their turf and trying to change their way of life. Neither side realizes they all are looking for the same things and if they’d just talk, they could work on improving their lives together.
See? Times never change.
Amidst this backdrop, Tony, a Jet who to his gang’s dismay, has gotten a job and is trying to go legit, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Shark leader Bernardo. Theirs is a Romeo and Juliet type story – two star crossed lovers from groups that historically hate each other.
Somehow, they must find a way to keep their love going against all odds and the pressures that their respective gangs put on them to break it off.
There’s two great musical numbers that, when you watch them today, you realize that these problems have faced our society for many years.
First, in, “Gee, Officer Krupke” the Jets parody the whole system that juvenile delinquents go through. Posing as adults, Riff is passed through the police, a social worker, a psychiatrist, and the prison system. Each “adult” or a kid posing as an adult, has a different opinion on why Riff is so screwed up and none of the adults consult with each other. They tell Riff that he’s screwed up because of his parents, because he needs a job, because he’s inherently bad. Treatment options range from he needs to talk to a shrink to he needs to find work to he’s got no good in him and needs to go to jail. The system becomes a joke as the kid is just passed from one part of the system to another and ends up no better than when he started. This pretty much still happens today.
Second, in “America,” the Sharks square off on their differing opinions of the immigrant experience. The pro-America argument is that the country is great. Washing machines and apartments and jobs and so on. The anti-American argument is you have to ruin your credit to get the washing machine, the apartment is so expensive you have to put 20 people in it to afford it and the best jobs you’ll get are waiting tables and shining shoes. This debate rages on even today, doesn’t it?
“America” is especially fun to watch. The choreography is great as the dancers all match their movements together and turn on a dime.
Anyway, last I knew it was on Netflix, so check it out, 3.5 readers.