Singin' in the Rain

Singin' in the Rain ★★★★★

I've been feeling pretty crappy lately, and I've decided that, from now on, I'll watch a favourite of mine whenever I'm like this to remind me that all is not lost. I'm going to have a hard time topping tonight's selection, Singin' in the Rain - a film I more or less grew up with, which is something I'll be eternally grateful for. I can't imagine my life without this film, one of the happiest there is. Nor do I want to.

Whenever I watch it, I'm always reminded of how underrated Adolph Green and Betty Comden's screenplay is, and how impressive too. MGM had all these songs in their back catalogue and essentially dumped them on the duo, who were tasked with fashioning the story around them. And what a story it is. Thanks to Comden and Green, Singin' in the Rain works as both a loving tribute to the moment when Hollywood invented the sound era, and a warm, even inspirational reminder of the joys of overcoming obstacles in the workplace and of the infinite riches of creativity. (In this respect, consider the film somewhat meta: Gene Kelly had flu when he performed the title number, and Debbie Reynolds said filming the "Good Morning" sequence was one of the hardest things she ever did.) It's thanks to Comden and Green, as well, that the film is so damn hilarious - one of the all-time great comedy films, make no mistake - and that the plot whizzes along at such a vigorous pace.

While the delights of the screenplay are many, the film is really a showcase for its phenomenally talented performers. Gene Kelly really was one of a kind, a charismatic and multitalented genius whose like was just as rare in his time as it is now. Debbie Reynolds, only 19 at the time, never ceases to impress me, as while she does have a hard time generating the lustre that comes so easily to Kelly, that's understandable, and she's some dancer, to say nothing of her golden voice. Donald O'Connor is blessed with having all the best lines and one of the best songs entirely to himself, but he makes the most of them to side-splitting effect; rarely has such spot-on comic timing been made so effortlessly visible. But acting-wise, the film absolutely belongs to Jean Hagen, who renders everyone around her wooden with her legendary embodiment of unbearable diva Lina Lamont. Hagen remains one of the most underrated human beings in cinema history, and while her screeching vulgarity may seem over the top, perhaps this is just sometimes what it takes to be unforgettable.

But I think what gives the film its longevity has to do with the elemental side of things. Singin' in the Rain is in a class of its own purely because of the sheer, undiluted joy and exhilaration it elicits and sustains for its entire duration. We can go on at length about the screenplay or the ingenious performances, but what it really comes down to, what gives the film its utterly singular effect, is the immortality of the songs and dances, all of which draw us in, spread a smile across our face, and lift the weight of the world off our shoulders, gently reminding us that it's OK to escape. "Make 'Em Laugh" lives up to its title, while "Good Morning" couples dance and humour in a surging expression of optimism. If you could see the actors' beaming faces during that sequence, you'd realise just how much fun they're having and just how much fun they want us to have. Oh, and the whole film is an endless feast for the eyes.

There are plenty of words to describe Singin' in the Rain, a film that fizzes with energy, sparkles with wit, brims with intelligence, glows with warmth, soothes with song and delights with dance. If you don't see it at least ten times, you should seriously be questioning the direction your life is going in. But a film this glorious requires you to bask in it rather than talk about it, so put simply, it's an irrepressible life force. I'll love it to the end of time.

[Edited 26/4/2019]

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