When I first saw the film version, at around Christmastime of 1968, as a high school Senior, and still a teenager, I was able to identify with the Jets, the Sharks, and their girls regarding kids being kids, and so on, but began to appreciate this great film as the work of art that it really is, when I got to be a little older and began seeing the film West Side Story in various (but now mostly defunct) independent repertory movie theatres in and around Boston. The advantage of viewing this great classic film on a great big, wide screen, in a real movie theatre, with the lights down low, over seeing it on TV, or even on an expensively elaborate home-theatre system is that one can really see the movie West Side Story as the great, rather theatrical work of art that it is. Sure, seeing it on television, or on a DVD/Blue-Ray player, on an elaborate home theatre system, at home is enjoyable, due to the very story, as well as the music and dancin behind it, but, in order to see and appreciate the film West Side Story for all that it really and truly is, one has to view it on a great big, wide movie theatre screen, with the lights down low. Also, movie theatres serve as sort of a temporary community, where people from all walks of life, and virtually all ages, can get together to share the experience of seeing great films as they're really and truly meant to be viewed, whether they know each other or not.
Since West Side Story is a movie that is rather exuberant, as well as being sad, violent, funny and tense, all at the same time, it's also reminiscent of a time when I was growing up: I was a teenager during the 1960's, which, despite a lot of bad things that happened and were happening back then, and despite my relative social isolation (which is another issue not to be disclosed here on imdb.com.) were also very exuberant times, that were reflected by the music, as well as the movies back then. West Side Story is also reminiscent of a time when movie-makers didn't depend on expensive gadgetry, computerized animation, constant exploding on the screen, or overly graphic images in order to create desired special affects. None of those things existed back then, so special affects were affectively created through different camera lens angles and different colors, as well.
Since there was a ticket-holders' line just outside the Coolidge Corner Theatre, waiting in the ticket-holders' line to to be seated in the movie theatre for the film West Side Story sort of reminded me of my waiting in line to get into the movie theatre as a kid, and being all excited about seeing the movie. The difference was, however, that since the internet and computers didn't exist back then, and no way to buy tickets to a special movie in advance, standing in line to wait for a ticket to get into the movie theatre had its risks; Experiencing the disappointment and anger at being shut out of the movie, due to the theatre's having sold out for that particular show! Unlike when I was a kid, however, I've been able to find ways to circumvent disappointments like that, and to avoid them...by purchasing tickets in advance, either online, or in person, well in advance of a movie or any other upcoming show that I wish to see.), and starting out, at least an hour or so in advance, to avoid the intense rush-hour traffic, or to allow for any snafus that may come up, either by car, or by public transportation, which can and often enough will break down or be extremely slow in our city. (Ever since a Black Lives Matter protest snarled up traffic one evening, at around Christmastime of 2014, by sitting in the MBTA (Mass. Bay Transit Authority) tracks, I've made it a point to get to where I'm going way in advance (be it by car or public transportation), to allow for things that come up, and if I end up getting to where I'm going way early, so be it!
The downside of waiting in a ticket holder's line, however, is that, if one doesn't come early enough, they often don't get such great seats in the theatre. So, I managed to persuade my friend to get in the line at around quarter past six, to wait for the seating at 6:40 for the West Side Story screening (It was a seven o'clock show!), and it's good that we did, because the ticket-holder's line behind us wound way around the CVS building next to the Coolidge Corner Theatre! But, since everybody in the line had tickets, we all got seats!
West Side Story is definitely not a kids' movie (or my parents didn't consider it as such, which is why neither I or my younger sister were taken to see it back in the early to mid-1960's, when it was fresh, new and super-popular). As a kid, I liked rather intense stories and movies (and still do), and probably would've enjoyed the film West Side Story if I had seen it when I was much younger, but, since my younger sister and I were kept on a pretty tight leash, I wasn't able to see it until I was somewhat older. Yet, I think if any of the kids that I was friendly with was going to see it with their family, or other friends, and invited me to come along, my parents would not have objected, and would've allowed me to go. Also, unlike kids growing up in or very close to the city, who could rely on public transportation, as kids growing up in the suburbs, we had to rely on one or both parents taking us and dropping us off to where we were going, and then picking us up when the movie or whatever ended, plus, since the town my siblings and I grew up in didn't have a movie theatre, we ended up going to movie theatres in other towns nearby.
Anyway, West Side Story still has a powerful hold on my imagination, in that it brings back memories of when movies were a real reflection of what was going on at the time, of a more exuberant era, plus I still love the very story behind it: The fact that it's about so many different things, both good and bad, that even today, go on in real life, even though it's fiction. Hey! I know that in real life, street gangs don't go dancing through the streets on their way to a rumble, nor do people fall in love at very first sight (or, if they do, it still takes time, in real life, for their love to develop into something really substantial, based on mutual trust.), but meet and fall in love gradually.
West Side Story, as a film, also brings back memories of when films weren't so graphic, and didn't have constant exploding on the screen (which sells..bigtime, nowadays), less explicit sex depicted on film, and not as much "blue" language. I'm no stranger to "blue" language myself, and I admit to using it on occasion, but for certain movies, such as West Side Story, it wouldn't have been at all appropriate.
Yet, at the same time, I realize that it would be far too much to ask Hollywood to resume making movies like West Side Story and other great golden-oldie-but-keeper classic films. Re-making, or even attempting to re-make such films would lead to disaster and wouldn't go over very well, as re-makes of the films Planet of the Apes and the famous Hitchcock film, Psycho, indicate; they went over like a lead-filled balloon--inotherwords, not at all well. If there had been any changes to the film West Side Story, however, I wouldn't have minded seeing the following things occur:
A) Richard Beymer being permitted to play the role of Tony with more of an "edge".
B) Tony going to the Rumble, and no matter what he'd told or promised Maria, letting Bernardo and Ice duke it out with their fists as originally planned, Bernardo then duking it out with Tony, as he'd wanted to do, and then, if Tony had taken Bernardo, or if their fist-fight had been a tie, then Tony could attempt to shake hands with Bernardo. Either Tony would take Bernardo and win Maria as his bride, or, if Tony had been taken by Bernardo, accepted the fact that he and Maria couldn't be together. Nobody would've been killed, a truce would develop between the Jets and Sharks, and they'd become real friends.
But that's just some thinking that I'm doing. Since there was a hint of possible reconciliation between the jets and Sharks as several members of each gang came together to carry Tony's body off after he'd been shot and killed by Chino. The film West Side Story carries a message that is a double-edge sword: Arrogance, hubris, and racial/ethnic hatred lead to violence, which, all too often, leads to serious injury and/or even death, but amid all the feuding, intergroup reconciliation, as difficult as it often is, still has a possibility to happen.