BlakeMower’s review published on Letterboxd:
(Warning: the following is a real review written by Blake Mower that he submitted to his Film Studies teacher for a grade)
Going into Singin’ in the Rain, I knew I would enjoy my time with it. And not only because of the hype built-up from my grandmother, but because I am a sucker for proud musicals that aren’t afraid to play into what they are. And I think Singin’ in the Rain is a perfect example of what I look for in a musical.
The story for this film is nothing that will confuse the average audience but is still nuanced enough for any person paying attention to get invested. We’ve all seen an iteration of the washed-up celebrity story (e.g. The Muppets or Bojack Horseman) but what Singin’ in the Rain does differently is instead of picking up where the celebrity has already become washed up we see his, and his peers, efforts to prevent that from happening. Delving deep into their options and nuances with staying relevant with the entertainment industry and their critiquing public. And that’s my biggest compliment when it comes to this film, the realism of it all. Seeing Don’s panic and worry about falling into obscurity and having his spirits and confidence continually relying lifted by Kathy and Cosmo, sometimes relying on their words and presence to get through days.
Our central duo is played by Gene Kelly (Don Lockwood), Debbie Reynolds (Kathy Seldon), and Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor). And each has little details on how they play their characters that I was able to pick up on. Reynolds makes the choice of giving Kathy a very tight wired frame. Kathy does not move her arms or head as directly when making a point as other characters in the film. Her shoulders are almost always straight and down to represent how she is not as familiar with the film industry as Don or Cosmo are and is more intuned with the “real” or “outside” world. As for Cosmo, he is smiling for the majority of the film’s runtime to highlight his belief that an entertainer's job is to “make ‘em laugh” and the moments where he is not smiling are where he is clearly making another, more exaggerated expression for a laugh or entertainment. He is also the most focused on his facial and arm movements to insinuate his points or jokes, this is especially obvious during his “Make ‘Em Laugh” number. And of course, what may be my favorite detail, is how Don Lockwood looks into the camera during several non-musical scenes in the film. I believe this is to show his connection to the life of a star. This is especially noticeable in Don’s beginning speech at the premiere and his talk in the car with Kathy about what it means to be an actor.
The music in Singin’ in the Rain is iconic, which should surprise no one reading this. With the soundtrack being parodied in everything from A Clockwork Orange to Shanghai Knights. Besides the main trio we are given, the musical numbers may be the most enjoyable and entertaining part of the film. I am definitely not the first person to state this about my experience with the movie, but I found myself entranced when watching the musical sequences. I know next to nothing about cord progression or tempo but one detail I do know about and can accurately compliment to good detail is the instruments of the score following slight movements within the scenes. I love how this contributes to the visuals. Like how when the tuxedo men during the “Gotta Dance” scene toss their coins in the air, high strings are heard to emphasize the coins’ presence. Or during the middle of the “Singin’ in the Rain” sequence, Don twirls his umbrella in a circular motion with the brief pattern the song falls into syncing up with the umbrella’s rotation. And who could forget Cosmo’s body practically matching up or syncing in tune with the majority of “Make ‘Em Laugh”?
With Singin’ in the Rain (1952) being one of, if not the, most popular and influential early musicals in cinema, I thought it would be fun to compare it to a more modern musical. So after looking at recent modern musicals, I watched this year, I landed on Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 3 (2022). I began to look for similarities between the two and realized they both share one similar musical number. Both films share a musical scene where one of our protagonists is in need of cheering up during an uncertainty the character is in. Singin’ in the Rain’s being “Make ‘Em Laugh”, with Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 3’s being “Exceptional Zed”. The major difference one can tell after watching both sequences is that as musicals have gone on musicals now rely on more ensemble numbers rather than solos. With “Exceptional Zed” having the entire town help motivate Zed, our protagonist, and provides him with much-needed affirmation. However, if we look back to “Make ‘Em Laugh”, a big part of that is how it is placed solely on Cosmo to reenergize Don and make him focus on the big picture. He does this all by himself with the minor help of gaffers handling props. Modern musicals seem to take advantage of bigger ensemble musical numbers more than solos. And there is nothing wrong with this, but it is an interesting and important piece of theatrical progression.
Singin’ in the Rain is and has been remembered for several reasons, many of which I have already mentioned in this paper. But the history that is being portrayed in the film, that of the movie-making industry transitioning from silence to sound, is painfully honest. By showing the complexities of adjusting to this new and unknown way of filmmaking and the audience’s heightened scrutiny. With the film’s attention to these factors, I think it is easy to call this one of the best and most honest portrayals of the film industry's history in any film to date. Singin’ the Rain will always be remembered and celebrated for what it did with one of the most important and unique shift’s the entertainment business has ever seen.
Grade this review received: 103/100 (no, I am not joking)