Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Retro Review: Chicago (2002)


                          Killer Musical Numbers, Fun Performances, And Satire? That's 'Chicago'
     I may not have said this before on my blog, but at first, I was never that much of a musical fan early on. But as I got into different genres, I found myself enjoying musicals more. Chicago is not only a successful musical that has an old style, but speaks about issues involving fame that are still relevant to this very day.

   Chicago follows the story of a woman named Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) who has the desire to be a big star. But when she kills the man who says he can make her one but just fibbed, she finds herself in prison, awaiting the death penalty. There is where she meets a fellow inmate named Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who is a vaudeville star that was arrested for murdering her husband and her sister. They both wind up in a battle of wits as they fight for fame while being represented by the famed charming lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), who looks to focus on making Roxie a celebrity while imprisoned.

   First off, I did really like the musical numbers. Of course, when you are watching a musical, the highlights have to be the musical numbers, but I really liked the ones here. If I had to choose my favorite, it would probably be "All That Jazz" which is the opening number. The director, Rob Marshall, has a background in musical theater, and it really shows. I thought it was quite interesting how he was able to weave in the musical numbers that are figments of Roxie's imagination and cut back in forth between reality and the musical numbers occurring. I also thought the cinematography was brilliant. I loved the special colorful lighting, ranging from blue to red, that was used for the musical scenes. The musical scenes are really the heart and soul of the film and they are extremely well-done.

   Next, I'll get into the acting and the satirical context of the story. Renee Zellweger really sparks as the lead character of Roxie, the jailbird trying to charm her way to the top. Catherine Zeta-Jones, however, adds her own special spark to the character of Velma Kelly, who is as scheming as Roxie is, yet is more silver-tongued. To me, Zellweger and Zeta-Jones' performances are like vines that compliment each other as they play characters with the same intentions yet different ways to get their intentions. They both try to play victims, but Roxie goes the "he attacked me" angle while Velma is all "I was so shocked, I can't remember" angle. Richard Gere is also quite a showstopper as the lawyer Billy Flynn who is charming yet has quite a bit of sleaze up his sleeve. He is quite conniving yet Gere makes you pretty enamored with his character thanks to his effortless charm. Now, onto the story. The whole satirical context of the story deals with the ironic twist of how the two main characters achieve great fame just by committing murder. Yet whenever another murderess comes along and almost upstages them, they almost become forgotten. That reminds me of how whenever there is one "It girl" that comes along, audiences move on from that one once a new one suddenly enters the picture. It is quite relevant in today's celebrity-obsessed culture, that's for sure.


   Overall, Chicago is a ravishing musical that features bravura performances from its main cast and is an intriguing period piece that features satirical contexts involving fame that are still relevant to this day. I would say that if you like or even love musicals, be sure to give this one a watch because it is a real treat for that type of crowd. If you hate musicals, however, you'd want to look elsewhere since it has plenty of singing numbers and "all that jazz".

Grade: B+


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