“…very easily could have turned into a “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” situation…”
Last night I watched Singin’ in the Rain which is one of those old movies with the credits at the beginning which makes it difficult to tell if it is just starting or if you just missed it when you come across it on television. The movie follows a Hollywood celebrity who has his faith shaken by a new acquaintance as the film industry shifts from silent movies to those with synchronized sound. Singin’ in the Rain is one of those movies that is consistently hailed as one of the greatest of all time, and I don’t necessarily disagree with that sentiment. That being said, I don’t think it’s perfect. It comes close, but it doesn’t quite get there in my opinion.
Singin’ in the Rain is a really great movie. Not only is it a great movie, but it is also a great musical. The songs in Singin’ in the Rain are about as catchy as the common cold, and if you watch it you’ll find yourself tapping your feet during the movie and humming along to the songs weeks after the credits have rolled (the end credits, not the beginning ones). So it’s pretty easy to understand why so many people like it. It’s a light, fun movie that stands the test of time. If Singin’ in the Rain was released as an album it would probably be hailed as one of the greatest albums ever released, but it’s a movie so unfortunately music isn’t the only thing we have to discuss.
One thing that continues to impress me about Singin’ in the Rain is the writing. Released in 1952, Singin’ in the Rain lampoons many facets of Hollywood while it was still in the “golden age”. They had no reason to parody the very industry that gave them their careers, especially when that career was arguably at its peak, but they did it anyway. This was impressive to me. I don’t want to say it took guts because I’m not as familiar with Hollywood history as I would like to be, but it couldn’t have been easy. Even for audiences to receive Singin’ in the Rain, there would have to be a level of self-awareness that I’m surprised was present in the 50’s. Sure the movie mainly takes shots at the industry, but the industry is only thriving because of the people in the theatre watching this very movie. Singin’ in the Rain very easily could have turned into a “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” situation, but it didn’t; probably due in part to the fact that it is so funny.
The comedy in Singin’ in the Rain is timeless, and that’s because it is also one of the targets of the film’s relentless trigger finger. They take shots at the evolution of comedy over the years, from vaudeville style duos to slapstick-laden silent movies. The act of making fun of comedy itself extends the relevancy of what is being said. Even outside of the parody aspect, Singin’ in the Rain is a brilliantly written film. My favourite aspect of the story is the presentation of relationships. No two characters have a good relationship in this movie apart from maybe Don and Cosmo, but even that can be argued. The relationships are written with flaws. Sure the flaws are usually punchlines in conversations, but they still exist. This makes both the characters and the story more relatable. We are able to better see ourselves in these characters because they are written as fallible; which was yet another large step in the portrayal of Hollywood celebrities.
But like I said at the top of this review Singin’ in the Rain is not without its flaws. One of these flaws, really the only one in my opinion, is the film’s focus on dance numbers. I want to start by clarifying that I believe the dancing in Singin’ in the Rain is phenomenal. The talent and impressive strength that it takes to pull of some of the moves displayed is nothing short of awe-inspiring. For instance, the entire “Make ‘Em Laugh” segment is breathtaking every time I watch it. Not only was the dancing impressive, but the physical comedy remains unmatched. But the problem with a few of these dance numbers is that they seem to kind of lose the rest of the story. The plot will progress and lead into a song, which is normal for musicals. What isn’t normal is that song then leading into a five minute montage of (albeit impressive) dance moves that have no relevance to the plot (obviously because dance moves can’t talk), and make you wonder what was happening before your time was seemingly highjacked. Once again I really like the dancing I this movie, it is really fun and immensely impressive, but I feel that the focus on the dancing comes at the cost of the actual story which in my opinion is the more important aspect of a movie.
Overall Singin’ in the Rain deserves its spot as one of the greatest films ever made, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without issues. Singin’ in the Rain offers a brilliant satire of Hollywood with a solid helping of catchy tunes and a lot of laughs.
I give Singin’ in the Rain an A