Chicago

Musicals tend to have the weakest plots; they are there only to hold the songs together. Chicago is no exception, so without further ado letís get the Ďwafer-thiní plot out of the way.

Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) dreams of becoming a vaudeville star of stage and even though she is married she indulges another man, who promises her a shot at the big time.

After a while she discovers that her lover doesnít have any connections at the club and that heís just been using her. In a rage she shoots him dead and her lapdog of a husband Amos (John C. Reilly) tries to take the blame. Unfortunately Roxieís deceit is discovered at an early stage and she is arrested and sent to jail to await trial.

In jail she meets her idol, Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) a big star of cabaret, who is also awaiting trial for double-murder. Velma has enlisted the help of a lawyer who has never lost a case, the famous Billy Flynn (Richard Gere).

Soon, the two divas are competing, not only to avoid the death penalty, but also for new paper coverage and the fame it brings with it. With both vying for the headlines, the fame and the assistance of the same lawyer, Roxie and Velma pull out all the stops to ensure that they and not the other remains the centre of attention in Chicago.

Chicago is surprisingly entertaining and even though it has more than its fair share of self importance (on and off screen) it manages to keep the attention levels up - only just.

The performances are excellent with Richard Gere doing a surprisingly good turn as the slick and manipulative Billy Flynn. He, like Catherine Zeta-Jones, has had some theatre and musical work in his past and the singing and dancing skills are very natural and flow well. Gere is especially good during songs such as the brilliant puppeteer and ventriloquist number and the courtroom tap dancing, but having said that his opening number ĎAll I Care Aboutí is probably the weakest in the whole film. Zeta-Jones is excellent and her roots on the theatre and stage are in evident. Renee Zellweger has some good moments but on the whole her performance swung from excellent to poor and very forced, made more evident by the better performances of others. A surprisingly good turn comes from Queen Latifah as Mamma, the opportunist warden of the jail where Roxie and Velma reside. Even John C. Reilly is good as the downtrodden lapdog husband of Roxie and his rendition of ĎMr Cellophaneí is really touching.

Director Rob Marshall and screenwriter Bill Condon have managed to bring to the screen a musical that many thought was un-filmable. Itís charged with sexual energy and through the use of some judicious editing they utilise their cast well.

The music and energy is a little forced at times and the film doesnít flow as well as it could. Itís almost as if the director and stars believe that because they are adapting a great musical that they are somehow already deserved of our worship and they almost seem smug about it. It is good, but its not that good, folks.

Score 6/10

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