The following review, while appearing on The Film Experience blog, is decidedly not the opinion of Nathaniel Rogers or The Film Experience blog, but belongs solely to his crusty guest contributor, JA of My New Plaid Pants. Its appearance here does not indicate any approval, agreement, vetting, endorsement, or anything of the sort, or perhaps even coming close, by Mr. Rogers and his fine establishment.
Y'all voted to make me watch a musical. And I did.
So this is what is thought of as The Greatest Musical Ever Made, huh? Two hours of shameless mugging and buffoonery? Singin' in the Rain is a disgrace to the "talkies" - I kep hoping some intertitles would pop up and shut these morons up...
Wow, that'd be a downer, eh? If I actually came on here roaring like that? Scared ya, didn't I? He gone and done it; he's gone deranged, you thought. Well relax your furrowed brow, turn away that business-end of your hammer and take that alcohol-soaked rag out of the wine bottle; I couldn't keep up the hate-charade for even one paragraph. Hell, the truth is, I had to do some household chores at the exact half-point of watching the film and I couldn't dry the dishes fast enough to get back to the movie.
So yes, it is true. Singin' in the Rain was an absolute pleasure, a joy, to watch. It's harder to write about things when you sorta kinda wholeheartedly like them, though. Where's the fun in that sort of nonsense? One's critical faculties turn to "durrr" when faced with something so effortless, so enjoyable. But I owe y'all all a review, something beyond "durrr," so let's look at it.
I can pinpoint the exact moment when my hateful, rage-filled defenses were broken down by the film. When I first laughed out loud, and realized it was inevitable that I was probably gonna love this movie. It was with this woman:
Nothing melts this cynical heart quicker than some good suicide humor.
And I'll just come right on out and say it: I kinda wanted to make shameless, dirty love to Gene Kelly. What a pip!
I was afraid at the start that he'd slide into ham territory; see, one of my main problems with musicals is that I get a little... uncomfortable... when somebody's trying so very hard to, well, Make Me Laugh (yeah... I'll get to Donald O'Connor is just a minute...). It's why I feel nauseous whenever I go to stand-up - if you can see the desperation in their eyes, the wild-eyed terror to please, I want to crawl out of my skin. But I guess there's a reason Gene Kelly was such a big star - who'd have thunk it? - never do you see the seams; never does it feel like he's trying. Effortless.
And as many times as I've seen the "Singin' in the Rain" number, in all sorts of contexts other than within the actual film, seeing it now, in the right context... I get why it's so revered. It's one of the most magical things ever put on screen. My eyes actually kinda welled up, it made me so happy.
Now as for Donald O'Connor...
I have to say he worried me at first. He was the frantic yang to Kelly's yin, all slapsticky buffoonery... but then, about midway through the "Make 'Em Laugh" number as I became progressively worried for his safety - he had to have some bruises after filming that thing - I realized he was actually sending up the hamminess I so fear. He was taking the shtick so far over the top that I breathed a sigh of relief - this movie was definitely smarter than I was afraid it wouldn't be.
As for Debbie Reynolds, well, she was just a doll. No, I mean that literally. Her resemblance to a plastic doll was uncanny and, frankly, slightly terrifying. Tell me if you can spot anything different here from above:
I thought not! Mutant! Plastic baby woman!
I kid. I kid because I love. She too could be described as a "pip." But alas, my heart will always truly belong to another...
Yes, my long sordid history of falling for the villain continues... Jean Hagen as the ditzy (but then not so ditzy, but then mostly ditzy again) villainess star seeking to go all Ursula the Sea Witch on Debbie's voice is and will always be my ain true love.
Give 'em squeaky-voiced hell, Jean!
And because being pervy amuses me, I did find myself wondering at some of the weird subtext within the film. If a dance between two people falling in love symbolizes their, uh, let's just say "courtship" - and I'm pretty certain that's a pretty surefire way to read it:
Then what exactly was going on with the "Good Morning" scene?
There was a load of subtext bubbling under the surface of the film between Kelly and O'Connor's characters; I'm sure it's been written about by now, though, so I'll have to go do some digging, check that out. Anybody got anything?
What exactly what Moses supposing anyway?
If I had one problem with the film, it came right at the end: why couldn't they tell Debbie (I just realized I'm calling all of these actors by their own names instead of their characters) what they were going to do when they forced her to stand behind the curtain and sing for Jean Hagen?
It seemed a needlessly cruel route to go that added a dash of false melodrama to what had proceeded so naturally up until then. I guess it was just because Debbie looked cute with tears in her eyes:
Still, I smiled as he brought her back to the stage (after semi-creepily screaming for the crowd to stop her from escaping) and they duetted us out on a happy high.
Here are some other random things that entertained me, but I don't know enough about the context on which the film was riffing, my musical knowledge being so lacking, as to really comment upon (all y'all who know such thing, please feed me your knowledge in the comments!):
Spider Woman rocked! I wanted more of her.
The weird costume song. Apparently this was something that was actually really featured back in musicals back in the day? And Singin' was making fun of it, I guess? The only time I remember seeing this happen was that INSANE scene in The Women when the film slid to color and the most ridiculous outfits I'd ever seen were suddenly paraded out - that scene seemed even more over-the-top then this one. Also, I'm convinced this model was a man:
Those giant pearls are totally hiding an adam's apple.
I don't know what the hell was going on here:
But Gene Kelly sure did look fine dressed all in black.
I know I'm forgetting some things, but I'll let y'all remind me what you find great about Singin' in the Rain in the comments.
And a hearty thank you to everyone who participated in the voting, and has checked out what I've had to write whilst here at The Film Experience. But my biggest, heartiest thank you goes to Nathaniel, for allowing me to pollute his blog with my ramblings once again. I'd be lying if I said I was a little worried I might find myself locked out after not adoring West Side Story completely! But no, he's a generous and kind soul. Thanks, Nat! And thanks everybody! Look for me over on the wrong side of the tracks next time around...