thatcow

Gotta dance?

First off, I have to admit I'm not that naturally attracted to the musical form. That's fine - I'm not that into westerns either, but I've found a number of good westerns and I at least like to think I'm objective on the topic. Indeed there are musicals I like, Top Hat probably being my favorite.

That doesn't sound like I'm preparing for a glowing endorsement, does it? It's definitely a good flick - I just think there are some issues that keep Singin' in the Rain from being as good as its reputation.

First off, though, the good stuff: the premise is wonderful. As also alluded to in Sunset Boulevard, the transition from silent film to talkies was not an easy one in Hollywood. Not everyone had the voice or ability to make it with sound. The setting here is of a studio trying to make its first talkie with its most prominent star duo, the female half of which - Lina Lamont - having a most comically grating voice. Our male lead, Don Lockhart, has to deal with her unwanted affections, and ends up having to hide a new romance with unknown Kathy Selden from her. Thrown in Don's buddy Cosmo, a studio head, and various other movie-type people. Because Lina's vocal talents are so bad, they end up deciding to use Kathy to redub her to save the movie, without Lina's knowledge.

On the whole, this plot is wonderful, the details are insightful, and all the parts come off as believable.

I believe the primary purpose of a movie is to tell a story. I was willing to let the earlier indulgences pass, but the big "Broadway Memory" sequence toward the end was too much. This binge of song and dance that does nothing at all for the story, and instilled in me a sense of simply being lost. One interesting thing to note is that, with Singin' in the Rain, the musical numbers were written before the plot, meaning all these bits had to be woven together somehow. It's not surprising then, that some parts don't fit that well. The best musicals I've seen have the musical numbers reveal something about the plot or about the relationships between the characters. The key part of that something is revealed. At times in Singin' in the Rain, it feels like we're just taking a complete break from the story. When we come back, we get thrown off and have to remember what was actually going on before the "entertainment" started.

I will acknowledge that Cosmo's "Make Them Laugh" number is about the most frantic displays of a single performer's abilities as I've ever seen. Its full length here is another example of breaking the narrative for too long, but the sequence is so amazing, and nowhere near the length of the "Broadway" piece, it's easy to forgive.

If someone were to edit out some of these numbers - possibly get rid of them altogether - we might just have something excellent on our hands. As it is, I find Singin' in the Rain to be unfulfilled promise.

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Review: a well done musical star8/10 cody

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