Uproariously hilarious, delightfully whimsical, and buoyed by a relentless optimism and musical glee, Singin’ In the Rain in a musical for the ages, a masterfully-crafted, sharp and poignant meta-commentary on Hollywood and Broadway, and the passionate love/hate relationship that all of its denizens share. Gene Kelly is at his feet-tapping finest, with Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds keeping Kelly on pace with their impeccable comedic timing. The scores and songs are ravishing and the story is smart and sardonic without being too grim or morose. It is both homage to and parody of show business, with its wonderful colored lights shining brightly after credits have rolled.
Kelly plays Hollywood star Don Lockwood, whom finds himself between a rock and a hard place when he’s cast in a talkie film with Lina Lamont, beloved silent star whose shrill voice will easily deflate Kelly’s Hollywood career. But Kelly’s friends Cosmo Brown (O’Connor) and Kathy Selden (Reynolds) devise a cunning idea to let Selden lipsync whatever Lamont is actually saying onscreen.
There’s more to it than that, but while the film’s humor comes from its plot, its magic comes from its music. Much of it comes from over movies, with songs like “Singin’ In The Rain” and “Good Morning” originating in the films The Hollywood Revue of 1929 and Babes in Arms, respectively. Still, all of these songs fit magnificently together, giving ample creative power for the film’s three stars to show off their expert dancing skills.
But what is most astounding to me about Singin’ in the Rain’ is that it doesn’t feel dated or old in any sense. Shifting from silent film to talkies can be a metaphor for Hollywood’s hesitancy and fear of adapting to a new technological medium. The humor is lively but not esoteric, sometimes making us laugh with slapstick physical gags or more subdued showbiz humor. Regardless, and as Cosmo Brown stresses, it always makes us laugh. But it leaves you feeling a sense of glee and warmth, an escapist adventure still tucked into reality, that no matter what problems may face us, the solution is just a song and dance away.