Chicago has long been one of my
favorite musicals. The first line of the play explains why I
love it: "You are about to see a story of murder, greed, corruption,
violence, exploitation, adultery, and treachery ... all those
things we hold near and dear to our hearts." The musical, based
on a real-life murder case in the 1920s, is about as sexy as
they come with a great plot, good music, scantily clad dancers
and hot dance moves.
I had very low expectations of the movie. Going in, I would
have settled for it not sucking. I am glad to say it does not
suck. I liked it better than Moulin
Rouge (and Cats). I am going to see
it again and again.
The movie does a very good job of representing the musical.
It also stands alone as a solid movie.
The film tells the story of Roxie Hart (Rene Zellwegger), a
chorus girl with dreams of stardom. She is sleeping around with
a man who promises her she will have her name in lights. She
finds out the man is furniture salesman and can do nothing for
her career. Worse, he is walking out on her. She does what any
sensible flapper would do: shoots him.
Her naive husband Amos (John C. Reily) is about to take the
fall for her, when he gets wise and rats her out. Roxie is thrown
in slammer, where she is almost sure to hang for the crime.
There she meets famed nightclub singer Velma Kelly (Catherine
Zeta Jones), who is in the joint for knocking off her husband
and sister after finding out they were having an affair. Velma
has become a media darling, thanks to her lawyer, the renowned
Billy Flynn (Richard Gere). Flynn takes on Roxie's case, and
thanks to his press savvy, she becomes an overnight sensation.
Velma is no longer in the spotlight, and the two try to one-up
each other to garner front-page attention.
The music and dancing is very good. Though some would disagree,
I think it out-sexes the play. The costumes are skimpier and
the dance moves are grindy-er. The dance scenes are portrayed
as if they are Roxie's fantasy visions. This allows for fully
costumed and staged numbers dripping with saturated Technicolor.
The design of the film is very rich with wonderful costuming.
Many of the actors pull out fine performers. Highlights of
the show are Zeta Jones and Queen Latifa (you heard me right).
Zeta Jones apparently has a long history as a dancer and pulls
off the numbers far better than I would have ever hoped. Latifa
is very believable as the prison matron, Mama Morton.
Richard Gere is certainly not helping his "I'm-not-gay-don't-believe-the-rumors"
case with this one. Tap dancing in your underwear does not exactly
make you a manly-man. However, he completely does not suck and
is egotistical enough to pull off a good performance as the
Zellwegger is not the person I would have chosen for the roll.
But she pulls off a solid performance and has some great moments.
Reily is charming as Roxie's "invisible" husband who is often
overlooked and definitely not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
"Should I see this movie?" you ask. Well, that depends. If
you like musicals, absolutely. If you absolutely hate musicals,
then no, you should not see this movie. If you are a man and
don't particularly like singing and dancing, but can stand it,
go see this for the scantily-clad women straddling chairs and
rolling around on the ground.
Chicago is a solid movie and a good time.
P.S.: If you have seen the musical, and are waiting for Christine
Baranski's character to turn into a man, she won't.