An American in Paris is a 1951 musical romance film directed by Vincente Minnelli and stars Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. The film is based on a 1928 orchestral piece of the same name by George Gershwin.
Jerry Mulligan (Kelly) is a World War II veteran who resides in Paris, attempting to make a living as a painter. He meets a woman who takes interest in his artwork, which later results in Mulligan meeting Lise Bouvier (Caron). Jerry soon falls for Lise, hoping to win her affections.
An American in Paris is the first Best Picture winner to be seen in color since Gone with the Wind. I appreciate that the film is not in black and white, mainly because it contains a light-hearted and colorful style that requires the vibrance and underlying emotional attachments of colors. This is also Leslie Caron's feature film debut, and she would also appear in a later Best Picture winner, Gigi.
There's a plethora of musicals that have won Best Picture, and when you think of musicals, the initial hope is that the singing and dancing are reasonable, if not top-notch. That doesn't mean that the other important qualities such as story/plot and characters can be foregone. An American in Paris is an example of excellent singing and dancing being displayed with plot coming up as an alarming opportunity cost.
- Gene Kelly. No one can deny that Gene Kelly was one of the best of his generation, and his talents are brought full force to this film. His syrupy-sweet charm and clicking dance feet are as pleasant a sight as they are in Singin' in the Rain and his other films. Songs such as "I Got Rhythm" and "'S'Wonderful" are the most memorable, and the 17 minute ending ballet dance sequence is swift and highly active, all with Kelly leading the way.
- The lighthearted and upbeat tone. I fail to a see a proper reason to "hate" An American in Paris, primarily because it is busy acting as if it doesn't have a care in the world, conveyed by its jubilant dances and the constantly smiling faces seen throughout. That's a plus because there's nothing preachy or shove-it-down-your-throat.
- The plot. Outside of Gene Kelly's character being an artist and him developing a romance with Leslie Caron's character, there's not really any more movie sandwich-meat for us to chew. An American in Paris not having a care in the world is also a minus because the paper-thin plot is not given the time and attention that it probably needed.
- The weak romance. The singing and dancing are smoke and mirrors for the poorly developed love story between Kelly and Caron. The problem is not that the two fail to create a spark of chemistry, but more-so going back to the half-empty plot, which fails to deliver to the two characters the screen time that they need. Gene Kelly usually spends more time singing about being in love, rather than actually being in love.
An American in Paris features quality work from Gene Kelly, and though the plot and romance leave a lot more to be desired, the joyous dance routines and singing make the film a harmless experience that is highly enhanced by being in color.
Recommend? Flip a coin. Heads-yes. Tails-no.
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