Five S(tars): Stylish, Steamy, Surreal, Stunning, Stimulating
It is not the showbiz per se that is subjected to a devastating satire here. It is the society’s making such a monstrous fuss of it. In fact, the prime reason for the very existence of showbiz is the media hype created by a smart minority in order to be enjoyed by the brainless masses. When it comes to raw material for hot news, everything will do: murder, adultery, perjury, prison, trial; nothing, however gruesome, morbid or improper, is taboo. Family and friendship are viewed through the all-encompassing lens of sex and money, respectively; any other values or positive qualities you can think of – goodness, truth, love, integrity, honesty, whatever – are perverted on a grand scale. The “phony celebrity” of the moment is everything, a “flash in the pan” that’s forgotten as soon as a new star appears. That’s
. It mixes
all that and a lot more into a potent cocktail of rambunctious fun and
razor-sharp cynicism. Chicago
There are so many scenes in this movie which stick in the mind as a chewing gum on a hot tin roof. Remember the black-and-white, mock-archive footage ranging from tattoos of Roxie’s name to her hairstyle being all the rage among young women to baby dolls that look suspiciously like her. What could be a better illustration of social sickness than a mass hysteria over a murderess who can pass for “reformed sinner” thanks to brilliant PR? Or the fabulously over-the-top court scene, at breakneck tempo and accompanied by “all that jazz”, crowned with Roxie’s fake fainting and surreptitious “What a bullseye”. If you know of a more powerful example of the hilarious inefficiency of the law system, not to mention the vast opportunities for its manipulation, let me know about it too.
Likewise, the dialogue and the lyrics are brimming with unforgettable lines. Let Billy Flynn sum up the movie for you. No one can do it better:
This trial... the whole world... it's all... show business.
I don't mean to blow my own horn, but if Jesus Christ lived in
today, and he had come to me and he had five thousand dollars, let's just say
things would have turned out differently. Chicago
Would you please tell the audience... err... the jury what happened?
Give 'em the old razzle dazzle. Razzle razzle 'em. Give 'em an act with lots of flash in it and the reaction will be passionate.
You’re a phony celebrity. You’re a flash in the pan. In a couple of weeks, no one's gonna give a shit about you. That's
Even if you don’t want to be bothered with any serious issues, you can still enjoy
as 110 minutes of unabashed fun. This is what makes the movie a real
masterpiece: it is relentlessly hilarious. Not the least of its merits is that
both Roxie and Velma, the two chief singer-dancer-murderesses, are presented
with sympathy and even compassion. These are no caricatures. Nor, for that
matter, are the warden of the female prison (Mama) or the genius-lawyer who’s
never lost a case (Billy Flynn). Chicago
Despite considerable liberties with reality in terms of both plot and characters, the movie doesn’t feel like fantasy at all. It’s a real story about real people. Whether you will take to heart the personal or the social implications of it, both or neither, that is up to you. Both are there. And both are dead serious and at the same time stupendously entertaining.
The cast is every bit as perfect as the feasts for the eyes and the ears. Catherine Zeta-Jones, in addition to being an amazing singer and dancer, has never looked hotter than she does here; nor has Queen Latifah (Mamma) with her unbelievably capacious bosom. Renee Zellweger (Roxie) is not quite up to the mark as far as singing and dancing are concerned, but she is nevertheless a fine actress. She certainly conveys very convincingly Roxie’s transformation from a disingenuous girl in the beginning to a shrewd woman of the world in the end. Nobody plays cocky lawyers better than Richard Gere does. Probably nobody ever has. He is in his element here.
All in all,
is uncannily close to perfection. It can be seen as a farcical comedy pure and
simple, and therefore enjoyed without any participation of your central nervous
system. Rob Marshall’s masterful direction and simply superb choreography are
quite enough for that, although the lavish visual side, the pointed dialogue
(and lyrics) and the jazzy splendour of the soundtrack do help. On the other
hand, masterpieces work on multiple levels. If you’re in the right mood, the
musical can be seen as a scorching satire of society and its wild but so
ephemeral and empty passion for celebrity and scandals. Chicago of the 1920s is a gorgeous setting
but the message is pretty timeless. Indeed, not only does it still ring true
today, but it becomes more and more relevant. Chicago
Either way, if you enjoy Bob Fosse’s immortal classic All That Jazz (1979), you definitely should see
as well; the phrase “All that jazz” is indeed quoted in the very first musical
number. Since he directed and choreographed the original 1975 Broadway production,
it is no wonder that Fosse’s influence should pervade the whole movie
adaptation. This is all for the better. Rob Marshall knows how to pay homage without
becoming a slavish imitator. Chicago
A magnificent spectacle with a lot of fun and a lot of food for thought. What
more can you expect from a musical? Chicago