Matt Polen’s review published on Letterboxd:
When I was younger, my mother used to sing “Good Morning” to me when she woke me up. I know my grandmother loved movies like this, so I bet my mom was passing something on that she remembered from her childhood. This morning I sang it to my daughter while we got ready, and we pretended to tap dance. She loved it. Movies like this always remind me of my grandmother. It’s part of why I loved La La Land so much, and it’s definitely why I was so glad to finally watch Singin’ in the Rain and find that it was more than capable of bearing the weight of expectation.
In true Hollywood fashion, Singin’ in the Rain is a movie about movies. It’s quite possibly THE movie about movies, and it’s definitely THE musical to end all musicals. Set in the late 1920’s, it follows Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood, a silent film star struggling to save his career as the industry’s transition to sound threatens to put him out of work. His best friend and partner Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor) and his love interest (and budding star in her own right) Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) help him retool his latest film into a musical that just might do the trick.
From the opening shot of the three leads in raincoats and boots, twirling their umbrellas as the title appears on screen, I knew I was in for something special. As a lover of film history, it’s a unique experience to watch a film from the 1950’s that depicts a transformative period in the industry thirty years prior. The sets and the personalities feel authentic, from Millard Mitchell’s archetypal producer to Jean Hagen as Lina Lamont, a woman with both a name and voice true to the silent era and nothing beyond.
Every element of this film is meant to facilitate the many iconic musical numbers, and the artistry impresses. Every number, along with being catchy, heartwarming, and masterfully showcasing the amazing physical capabilities of the performers, seems to have a great behind the scenes story. Donald O’Connor was hospitalized after filming “Make ‘Em Laugh” owing to his chain smoking habits and having to shoot the number twice because the film was overexposed. Debbie Reynolds, who did not have prior experience as a dancer, displayed inhuman work ethic and danced until her feet bled on “Good Morning.” Gene Kelly shot the titular “Singin’ in the Rain” with a 103 degree fever, a monumentally unbelievable feat.
The humor holds up and doesn’t feel as hokey as some comedies from the period might, and the visuals are breathtaking, playing with the edges of the frame and perspective to create some surreal visuals. You don’t have to have a personal connection to enjoy this film, as it’s already an undeniable masterpiece, but it certainly helps.