When it comes to gangster musicals, Chicago is IT.
From the opening scene, we are engrossed in this, the long-awaited
film version of the Broadway hit. Set in the roaring ’20s,
it’s the story of Chicago chorus gal Roxie Hart (Zellweger),
who shoots her unfaithful lover. Landing in jail, she meets
Velma Kelly (Zeta-Jones), a star showgirl and murderess,
currently enjoying tons of media attention and legal manipulation
care of her attorney, Billy Flynn (Gere), king of the
old razzle-dazzle. Soon enough, Billy takes Roxie's case as
well, and Velma finds herself old news. With Roxie’s overnight
success as the most famous murderess in town, she’s on her
way to becoming a star. The film depicts the two ruthlessly
attempting to get what they want: freedom and fame (not necessarily
in that order).
Loads better than Moulin Rouge, Chicago is
a musical even for musical nay-sayers like myself. The pacing
is what does the trick (i.e. killer editing and cinematography,
no pun intended). Luhrmann’s production was just too
much—too fast, too choppy, too constant. It all boiled down
to over-stimulation that distracted from a great story and
beautiful actors and sets. In this film’s case, Marshall
and team edit stunningly, seamlessly splicing song-and-dance
numbers with spoken word scenes. This made the pace more manageable
than Moulin yet faster than the traditional Broadway
On top of that, the costumes and makeup were absolutely brilliant.
With it, as well as good direction and a good script, the
Z twins (Zellweger and Zeta-Jones) both dominate any scene
they’re in, meshing murderous vixen with fabulous fishnet
starlet. Seeing Richard Gere sing and dance is admittedly
silly at first, but even he proves himself to belong in the
role after just a couple scenes. And John C. Reilly
is a joy to watch, bumbling appropriately through his role
as Roxie’s doting hubby.
Maybe you won’t walk away a changed human being, but I recommend
that hipster guys and dolls alike view Chicago this season.
And all that jazz!