[MOVIE REVIEW]Brash, with lots of flash, ‘Chicago’ prances homeGive ’em an act with lots of flash in it. / And the reaction will be passionate.
Filled to the brim with flash, “Chicago,” the Academy Award-winner for Best Picture, has been passionately received.
Director Rob Marshall’s re-creation of Bob Fosse’s high-stepping 1975 musical takes a fun look at the making of minor celebrities by the media in Prohibition-era Chicago.
Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) is a bored housewife who dreams of success on the stage. She has taken a lover whom she believes will help her reach stardom. When he proves unwilling and, even worse, unable to do so, she murders him in a vengeful rage.
Coincidentally, Roxie is sent to the same cell block that houses Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a former stage starlet whom Roxie admires. Velma had discovered her husband and sister in bed and murdered them both, then claimed she blacked out and didn’t remember a thing.
Under the care of “Mama” Morton (Queen Latifah), the prison warden, Roxie retains Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), a slick-talking lawyer with a penchant for swaying public opinion with his skillful manipulation of the media.
When Roxie replaces Velma as Billy’s star client, Velma schemes to discredit Roxie and return to the public’s eye.
The ensuing courtroom scenes are a veritable circus, outdoing the trials of O.J. Simpson and Tonya Harding. This leads to a particularly memorable dance number ― interpreted by Mr. Marshall (formerly a television choreographer) from Mr. Fosse’s original ― where the ventriloquist Billy performs with a dummy Roxie for the press, themselves just a bunch of marionettes.
Complex segments like the courtroom scene run the risk of being overshadowed by the dance numbers. But they don’t due to strong performances throughout by Mr. Gere, Ms. Zellweger and Ms. Zeta-Jones.
Although not in a leading role, Ms. Zeta-Jones steals the spotlight in every scene; she’s the movie’s true star. Like Velma, Ms. Zeta-Jones has an electrifying presence that lights up the screen in a performance oozing with confidence and sexuality, fully deserving the Best Supporting Actress award that she won earlier this week.
Also giving stunning performances are Queen Latifah and John C. Reilly, who plays Amos Hart, Roxie’s jilted husband. Invisible to Roxie as she eyes her chance for fame (and a mere pawn in Billy’s game), Amos gives a soleful, comic rendition of the number entitled “Mr. Cellophane.”
From the opening number, the film’s frantic pace barely gives the audience a chance to catch its breath. Much like the musical, the movie’s decidedly light plot is totally overwhelmed by the film’s energy.
Razzle dazzle ’em. / And they’ll never catch wise!
by Steven Lee
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