There are so few examples of perfection in the world these days. But I feel fairly comfortable saying, after watching it approximately four dozen times, that this clip of Tom Holland performing a medley of “Singing in the Rain” and Rihanna‘s “Umbrella,” is a perfect two minutes and 24 seconds of cinema.
If you’ve never seen it before, I envy you. If you haven’t seen it in the last few days/weeks/months/years, don’t worry. It holds up to your memory. Every beat remains a beautiful surprise: Holland’s graceful Gene Kelly-esque softshoe seguing to a quick change that catapults the number from old Hollywood glamour into the glorious grey space between male and female, gay and straight, pop and R&B. There is dancing, and some respectful grinding upon Spider-Man: Homecoming co-star Zendaya (losing her mind with glee), and oh and does the rain pour. It’s a jubilant moment of live performance, one which endures to this day.
The full episode of Lip Sync Battle aired on May 7, 2017, but that fact is almost irrelevant given how often this clip resurfaces on social media — among many I follow on Twitter, there’s an official unofficial rule that if the video appears on your timeline, you must retweet it. I have no official tally as to how many times I’ve personally retweeted it; a low estimate would be like three times a year? But that’s low.
One aspect of Holland’s Lip Sync Battle appearance is imagining Tobey Maguire presented with the same opportunity — Maguire, you will of course remember, was the first blockbuster star of Spider-Man films, who like Holland started off as a child actor. However, Maguire, you will also of course remember, was infamously a member of Leonardo DiCaprio‘s infamous “Pussy Posse”, and is also alleged to be the real identity of the sociopathic “Player X” portrayed by Michael Cera in Molly’s Game. Imagine Tobey Maguire, being presented with the opportunity to out-Rhianna Rhianna on television. While the guy’s got moves, it’s hard to imagine him being open to the idea.
Meanwhile, Holland’s acrobatic skills aren’t a huge surprise — even with all the CGI involved in the MCU, his take on Peter Parker’s physicality has always been appropriately nimble and quick. But his skilled dancing is an important reminder of his origins as one of the West End Billy Elliots, and it’s a virtuoso, fearless sequence, one that showcases both Holland’s positive spirit and incredible commitment to the bit.
Holland’s performance might theoretically be seen as apolitical, but really it’s not. It’s about rejecting conservative norms and embracing joy along the way, about blending the past and the present for a glorious new future. It’s about people coming together to create something beautiful, moving in sync to promise shelter and support to anyone who might need it. Rihanna and Tom are offering us their umbrella, in the form of this moment of magic. Safe a place to stand as anywhere else.