Directed by: Rob Marshall
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Drama
Runtime: 113 Minutes
There are many reasons why Chicago is one of my favourite musicals of all time. It is edgy, it has a dark side, the film’s humour is perfect and most of all each song is brilliant. On the time, I first seen this film I absolutely loved it and only until quite recently I realised that Bob Fosse directed and choreographed the 70’s stage play. Therefore, that would explain Chicago’s wonderful style and difference. The stage show was claimed to be a vaudeville musical rather than just a Broadway musical because of it’s style. At last, here is Chicago that was to become a film for over two decades, but Fosse passed away before he could make the film. Chicago is satirically funny, has amazing musical numbers, wonderful characters and dark humour that make it one of the perfect musicals around.
In the mid-20s, Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) is a minor chorus dancer who is married to a dunderhead named Amos (John C. Reilly). Roxie is currently having an affair with the furniture sales clerk Fred Casely a smooth talker who insists he can make her a star. However, Fred strings Roxie along a bit too far for his own good, and when she realizes that, his promises are empty; she becomes enraged and murders Fred in cold blood. Roxie soon finds herself behind bars alongside Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a sexy vaudeville star who used to perform with her sister until Velma discovered that her sister had been sleeping with her husband. Velma shot them both dead, and, after scheming prison matron "Mama" Morton hooks Velma up with hotshot lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), Velma becomes the new Queen of the scandal sheets but soon Roxie becomes the new hottest news. Soon Flynn is splashing Roxie's story -- or, more accurately, a highly melodramatic revision of Roxie's story -- all over the gutter press, and Roxy and Velma are soon battling neck-to-neck over who can win greater fame through the headlines.
I remember the first time I watched the film and that overture ‘All That Jazz’ came on and we see Roxie enjoying herself with a little bit of dirty fun. Then when Fred is about to leave, I thought Roxie was going to be left there and then, all of sudden BANG! Fred was dead. I could not help but laugh because I really was not expecting that. The story as a whole is gorgeously made and I just love how the songs poke fun at something in some satirical clever way, and most of all they are quite honest. In the song ‘When your good to mama’ it is clearly mocking how people where and are bribed in prisons. The film’s editing was slick and clean that along with it’s visuals and authentic 20’s set pieces gave it eye-candy.
The songs for the film where played out well and is what I meant by great editing. They are all in the vision of Roxie’s eyes and they are put in beside the action happening rather than the traditional, story to musical number. The songs are remarkable and are more fun than any other musical. First, we have the beautiful ‘All That Jazz’ overture and later we have a great musical number featuring murderesses and murderesses row called Cell Block Tango. Then of course we cannot forget the classic ‘Mister Cellophane’, a wonderfully honest song that gives you a bit of heart for Amos (whose second name is hart). Then we have the crafty honesty of ‘We both reached for the gun’. I could give every song a mention and say why it is so great, but for your sake, I will not.
The film had excellent acting from the whole cast. First, we have Roxie Hart played by Zellweger who was a saint in this role. Then there is the stunning Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly whose facial expressions were strong, evil and scheming. Richard Gere was Billy Flynn and was marvellous in this energetic lawyer role. There is also brilliant cameo appearances from Queen Latifah (Mamma Morton), Lucy Liu and even Christine Baranski as the eager reporter. As far as musical characters come Chicago’s, have edge and lots of personality. And let's not forget about the chemistry between the actors, both Zellweger and Zeta-Jones completely give the characters life.
An interesting but sad fact about the Chicago motion picture is that Bob Fosse wanted to make it but unfortunately died 2 days before the meeting for it’s pre-production would be set up. Therefore, the story of Chicago floated around just waiting to get adapted to the silver screen. It would be the 1990’s before the film would start casting and such and it took a whopping 6-8 years to get everything sorted out. Therefore, the film is ultimately a memorial to Bob Fosse for a film that is in honour of his vision. It leaves you wondering, “If Fosse did make this film, would it be better and what would it be like?” It would certainly be different and probably better, but I think he would have liked what became of the story. This film was a winner of 6 academy awards and it is deserving of it’s efforts, even for best picture. Chicago is stylish, glamorous, (dare I say sexy) and wholesome in plot and character and has some of the greatest musical numbers you can witness.