It is 2017, reshoots never go this well!
A silent movie production studio and its stars struggle during the advent of “talkies”; the production of movies with sound.
It is 2017, and I know I am very late!
Singin’ in the Rain is perhaps the most famous musical ever produced, alongside The Sound of Music perhaps, but as someone who has lead feet and doesn’t care for singing in movies… it took me a long time to commit to watching a film that is famous for its dancing and singing. But what I dislike most about musicals, doesn’t surface very often here, in fact… Singin’ in the Rain has a lot more going on than the typical praise lets on.
It is very hard to imagine that the film didn’t win either of its Academy Award nominations (Best Actress and Best Music) in 1953, by today’s reckoning this film would have swept the board! Singin’ in the Rain (from the perspective of someone only just watched it for the first time) is a mix of this year’s La La Land and The Artist back in 2011, two films that gathered up gold Oscar statues.
Of course, saying that is doing this film a little bit of disservice; those two films weren’t as ridiculously happy… no, deliriously happy… as this one. I think you’d have to have a heart of stone to not marvel at the film’s unrestrained joviality or at least the tremendous physical performances that come crashing your way. If neither of those, then the film’s surprising amount of self-awareness and even satirical edge towards the period of film-making that it is representing. Positively modern thinking.
We see Gene Kelly and Jean Hagen as Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont, two Hollywood stars with a veneer of wax-sculpted charm and togetherness, a fake sheen of celebrity glamour that is only intensified by Don’s recounting of how they both met. An opening that certainly caught me off-guard! This is a satire??
It goes forward with these two growing intensely distant, especially when their jobs are at stake and they are expected to talk and enunciate correctly in their movies. Moreso, Don meets Kathy (Debbie Reynolds) a girl who doesn’t immediately fall for his movie-star charm, in fact she is repulsed by him and everything he stands for.
Of course, the music and the insane dancing performances are what people remember the movie for. Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor (playing his career-long pal Cosmo) have ludicrous amounts of energy in their dancing parts! Sure, there are some moments that I found myself rolling my eyes a little (I can’t help it, it is why I struggle with musicals) with O’Connor’s “Make ’em Laugh” number; pretty sure I was watching a mental breakdown. It just comes out of nowhere and goes on and on.
But for majority the film’s musical numbers are very entertaining at the very least, including aforementioned lunacy and a strange… fashion show?
Probably my favourite aspect was Jean Hagen as the squeaky-voiced and terribly vain Lina, or perhaps everyone else’s reactions to her. It was very funny, but also her character drives a lot of the film’s narrative. Without it and the satire it promotes the film would have been nothing but fluff.
But, and there’s always a but. Like a lot of older films, the romance between Gene Kelly’s Don and Debbie Reynolds’ Kathy comes out of nowhere. I liked her initial disdain for him, I liked how it would give him some humility while inspiring him to maybe change his ways to win her over. Kathy literally has no idea who he is, maybe only having seen one of his films because she is above all that.
But then, twenty or thirty minutes later, she admits to having not only seen several of his films, but also having feelings for him! This is a guy who’s onscreen partner had you fired, and who you were about to slam a cake into the face of… only now you are laughing and dancing with him?
It could just be me, it isn’t as cold a cut as I am making it out to be. But Kathy’s character started out clearly not knowing him, even hating him, then it is revealed she was lying the entire time?
One of the most novel things in Singin’ in the Rain though, in 2017, is how the production studio Don, Lina, Cosmo and Kathy work for, need to save a movie with reshoots. Haha, oh… how reshoots are never good news nowadays.
But as a cynic of musicals, well done. I enjoyed this a whole lot. I was pleasantly surprised that the film had a satirical wit and many, many sideways glances and even fourth wall breaks (at least, looking down the barrel of the camera, Gene Kelly!) at the absurdity of it all, almost working with my cynicism!
A whole lot of fun.
Additional Marshmallows: The trailer just reminded me of possibly the worst part of the film: an opening ten seconds of our lead trio in raincoats singing “Singin’ in the Rain“. Quite jarring and quite unnecessary!