Film-Forward Review: [CHICAGO]

Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Renée Zellweger as Roxie

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Directed by: Rob Marshall.
Produced by: Martin Richards.
Written by: Bill Condon, based on the musical play Chicago.
Director of Photography: Dion Beebe.
Edited by: Martin Walsh.
Music by: John Kander. Lyrics by: Fred Ebb
Released by: Miramax.
Country of Origin: USA. 113 min. Rated: PG-13.
With: Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere & Queen Latifah.
DVD Features: Behind-the-Scenes Featurette. Deleted Scene: Musical Number "Class" with Zeta-Jones & Latifah. Commentary by: Marshall & Condon. French Language Track. Spanish Subtitles.

Set in 1920s Chicago “where the gin is cold and the piano’s hot, a noisy hall where there’s a nightly brawl,” Roxie (Zellweger), a married, wannabe vaudeville star shoots her lover after he reneges on his promise to further her career. Groomed by her slick lawyer (brilliantly played by Gere) and mentored by her tough jailhouse warden (hot mama Latifah), she becomes a media sensation, gaining fame and sympathy, and eventually supplanting her idol turned rival, the infamous Velma Kelly (an athletic Zeta-Jones), off of the headlines. Told through the eyes of Roxie, the adapted screenplay by Conlon beautifully weaves the dialogue with the musical numbers, each of which is an amplification of Roxie’s fantasies. This framework drives the narrative forward and deepens our understanding of Roxie. Indeed, in this version of Chicago, empathy for the characters is felt as the camera brings them close to the viewer rather than in the emotionally distant Broadway stagings. The performers are truly triple threats. And Zellweger captures brilliantly the vulnerability and Chaplinesque quality of her character. It is great fun to watch Gere tap dance, Zeta-Jones cartwheel over a chair and Zellweger Charleston. Choreographer Marshall uses dance and movement true to the period with the appropriate addition of street smarts in some numbers and elegance in others. The standout number is “The Cell Block Tango,” a series of duets. Because of lighting and camera angles the men are in shadow only. The women dance rigorously and with ferocious intensity, exemplifying the repetitive lyric, “He had it coming.” Chicago is strongly recommend to anyone who enjoys movie musicals.

Haila Strauss, Choreographer of over 100 musical theatre productions, Associate Professor of Theatre and Dance, Marymount Manhattan College

DVD features: The DVD extras don’t steal the spotlight from Velma and Roxie. The featurette is a self-congratulatory promo, and the bawdy but rightly omitted “Class” number would have, as director Marshall comments, dragged the pace. However, the informative commentary offers a key to the film’s success: musicals are all about transitions. KT
August 19, 2003



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