February 2nd: Chicago


Release Date: 2002
Director: Rob Marshall
Why I picked this: I always love a good movie musical

It’s flashy, visually stunning, has catchy songs, and very well-acted, pretty much everything a movie musical needs to be enjoyable. The movie’s atmosphere and mise-en-scene draws you in its caricature of 1920s Chicago; it isn’t realistic, but it’s believable and lifelike. All of the movie’s musical numbers are shown in the form of a vaudeville performance, introduced by a “master of ceremonies,” and they are all well directed and choreographed. Renée Zellweger plays Roxie Hart, who aspires to be a vaudevillian, when she murders her lover when he lies about getting her a start in show business. An array of characters are introduced, including Catherine Zeta-Jones as a showgirl who too has murdered, Richard Gere as their lawyer who launches Roxie to celebrity status, Queen Latifah as the matron of the prison in which she stays in, and John C. Reilly as Roxie’s devoted husband. Zellweger is as bubbly as she was in “Down with Love,” and she and Gere give performances that seemed more attuned for the stage, but they’re great to watch, as is Queen Latifah. Zeta-Jones and Reilly were my favorite of the cast. Zeta-Jones not only does great in the musical numbers, but she gives a great performance as well. I was surprised that I sympathized with her character more than Roxie Hart. John C. Reilly plays a similar character to the naive ones he always plays, but he certainly seemed to be the most human character out of them all. He always gets the short end of the stick, and his feelings are perfectly expressed in his one musical number. The musical numbers do a great job at introducing characters and expressing their feelings. They are wonderfully directed, but they seem to extend the story rather than progress it. There are also some numbers that are blocked just like they would on a stage production and don’t take advantage of the medium of film. But there are some like the minimalist but creative “Roxie” that alleviated my concern that this was just the stage version with a camera plopped in front of it. However, by the end of the film, I didn’t feel that every character received closure, and the finale wasn’t like that of most musicals; usually, every cast member is included.

Great production design, catchy music, and memorable performances make a movie musical adaptation that (barely) succeeds in transcending its stage version to the medium of film.

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