Oscar Movie Month: "Chicago" Review


Oscar Movie Month: "Chicago" Review

-- Rating: PG-13 (For sexual content and dialogue, violence, and thematic elements)
Length: 113 minutes
Release Date: Jan. 24, 2003
Directed by: Rob Marshall
Genre: Comedy, crime, and musical

The musical film "Chicago" revolves around two death row inmates and their struggles to stay alive. The two murderesses are Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Roxie Hart (Renée Zellweger). The screenplay adaptation was written by Bill Condon and written directed by Rob Marshall, who was also the choreographer.

The story begins in Chicago around 1924, when a naïve Hart visits a nightclub in the company of Fred Casely (Dominic West). Hart hopes to rise to stardom with Casely's help. Kelly, who was playing in the same club, is immediately arrested after the show for the murder of her husband and sister after she stumbled in on them making love. A month after this incident, Casely informs Hart that he is not as well connected as he led her to believe and that he cannot help her achieve her ambitions, and she shoots him in a rage. Hart initially convinces her husband Amos Hart (John C. Reilly) to take the blame, but he soon abandons the plan after learning that his wife had been lovers with the dead man.

Hart is arrested and taken to the same prison where Kelly was taken, where they are under the care of the corrupt Matron Morton (Queen Latifah). Hart convinces Kelly to help her get Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), the same lawyer who is representing Kelly, to help with her case as well. Hart and Flynn soon begin to manipulate the press and invent stories, a strategy which soon endears her to everyone else in the prison except Kelly. An heiress (Lucy Liu) soon enters the picture after getting arrested for a triple homicide. The struggle for the limelight then becomes a three-way race between Hart, Kelly, and the heiress.

In this musical, the plot feeds on the thrill-seeking nature of Americans, as well as the short attention span of the public and even members of the press. This is not new ground for filmmakers or movie fans. Sensationalism has been an important theme of many movies, including "Nothing Sacred" and "Five Star Final." In "Chicago," the story is even made more incredible by the infusion of predatory sex and memorable songs into the plot.

When the movie was released in 2002, the musical genre had been lying dormant in Hollywood for many years. Some critics had even begun to say that the big Hollywood musical was on its deathbed, an assumption that was promptly dismissed by the release of "Chicago."

One of the positive things in the film is the energy displayed by the cast members. It is not always easy for filmmakers to find a talented cast who can act and dance at the same time, but this is exactly what was needed for the musical. This may have been one of the reasons Zeta-Jones was recruited; she had dabbled in theater before. Gere is charming and enthusiastic enough, but he does have a weaker voice than many of his costars. The beautiful Zellweger is less strong as a dancer than as a singer, but she definitely has her charm.

Matching the story, theme, and cast is a difficult feat, and Marshall doesn't always succeed. Though the filmmakers naturally tried their best, it should be noted that a perfect "Chicago" musical should have had its plot fused inseparably with the dance. In the stage musical, the dancing was more erotic and graceful than it is in the movie. However, this is nearly the only negative thing that can be said about the film. Overall, it is hugely entertaining and relevant. Musical fans who love their movies steamy, sexy, and with a sprinkling of hard-boiled satire will definitely find this film worth watching.

Marshall is an American film and theater director and choreographer. He has been nominated for six Tony Awards, a Golden Globe, and an Academy Award and has won four Emmy Awards. He has worked on several other films, including "Mrs. Santa Claus," "Annie," and "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides." Zeta-Jones is a celebrated Welsh actress who has appeared in numerous films, including "The Mask of Zorro," "Traffic," and "Entrapment." Zellweger is an accomplished American producer and actress who has starred in several movies, including "Jerry Maguire," "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation," and "My Own Love Song."

Rating: 3.5 out of 5