Chicago (2002) (PG-13)
"Chicago" is a movie that is seen through Roxie Hart's eyes. The movie begins zoomed in on one of her eyeballs in which we see the letter "C" that then sprawls out to make the movie's title.
Roxie, like many others from the noir era of the 1920s, has dreams of making it big in showbiz. She wants to be on the cover of magazines and on billboards. People everywhere should know her name. Women should want to act and dress like her and men should drool over her—alas, she just doesn't have the connections to turn her dreams into reality.
She starts cheating on her husband with a man named Fred who can supposedly pull strings and get her into secret auditions with his big-name friends. Again, Roxie was just being naive and Fred was only interested in her body so he didn't tell her that he was a con artist with no high-to-do friends. When that little tidbit of truth is revealed, Roxie gets so angry and mad that (1) Fred was lying and (2) now he's leaving; she does the only thing any heartbroken lover would do in this situation—she kills him.
Her husband comes home to find a dead body and she tells him that it was a burglar. He lies to the police but the truth doesn't stay hidden for long and Roxie is carted off the jail.
She is placed on murderess's row, even though Chicago has yet to actually hang a woman. There she meets Velma Kelly who tells her that infamy is just as powerful as fame.
Roxie starts a quest to steal Chicago's biggest lawyer, Billy Flynn away from Velma. She wants her name in the papers and on the billboards, and she gets that; but now it's for a different reason.
Chicago has many layers to it—the relationship between husband and wife, the need for fame, the lust for money, the exploitation of the legal system, and reciprocity.
This musical is one of the darkest since "Cabaret" (which seems like the setting that this film was based on) and also one of the most enjoyable. There really isn't a dull moment to "Chicago".
The cast is really sensational from a perfectly annoying Renée Zellweger as Roxie to Catherine Zeta-Jones as the seductress and vaudevillian Velma Kelly to Queen Latifah as the matriarch of the prison Matron Mama Morton to Richard Gere as the elusive Billy Flynn to John C. Reilly (in a vastly underrated role) as the doting husband or Roxie, Amos, to Taye Diggs as the backbone of the picture, the bandleader.
"Chicago" is a stage play. A policeman's flashlight will turn into a spotlight for Roxie to sing a song and Mama's laughter rolls into an audiences approval. Some of the techniques are quite entertaining, like how the drumming of fingers, drips from a faucet, and the pacing of a guard turns into the best for a tango.
But "Chicago" isn't a fluffy piece, It has a brain and it knows where it should go.
This film swept the Academy Awards and took away six statues, beating out Roman Polanski's work for "The Pianist" and the second installment in Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
Some of the more enjoyable numbers include a mockery of the justice system in "Razzle Dazzle" to the stories of the women in "The Cell Block Tango" and a huge poke at journalists and the news machine in "We Both Reached for the Gun".
"Chicago" is never dull and always entertaining.
Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones