Chicago (2003)

If you can't be famous, be infamous.

Murderesses Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart find themselves on death row together and fight for the fame that will keep them from the gallows in 1920s Chicago.

Gazillions of babes frolicking around in showgirl costumes and lingerie
In mid-20’s Chicago Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Roxie Hart (Renée Zellweger) find themselves on death row for murdering their lovers and fan the fame that will keep them from the gallows with the assistance of a slick lawyer (Richard Gere). John C. Reilly plays Roxie’s likable but dimwitted husband while Latifah is on hand as the avaricious prison matron.
People criticize this amusing satirical musical for being sleazy, but it would be hard to lampoon and ridicule the corrupt targets of the media and the legal (in)justice system without showing, um, sleaze. That's the point of the original 1926 play “Chicago” and all its successive incarnations, including this acclaimed 2002 movie: illustrating and sarcastically denouncing sleaze via a droll musical. “Chicago” without sleaze would be akin to “Apocalypse Now” without war.
Believe it or not, the movie is based on real women, Beulah Annan (represented by Roxie) and Belva Gaertner (Velma), who were imprisoned for killing lovers in spring, 1924, in two unrelated incidents. The actual accounts were salacious with loads of sex & violence; and both were ultimately acquitted. Maurine Dallas Watkins wrote the original play, which was intended as a stinging satire of the lack of morals in Chicago during the roaring 20s. Watkins was, interestingly, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune who covered the popular trials and is represented by Mary Sunshine (Christine Baranski) in the film. Several of the peripheral characters are also based on real-life individuals who played a part in the unfolding drama, e.g. journalists, attorneys, officials and convicts.
I’m not big on musicals beyond ones like “Moulin Rouge” (1952) and “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), but “Chicago” works for me simple due to the scores of beautiful women prancing around in scanty showgirl apparel of the 20s. It’s the same reason I love figure skating. After the passage of the 19th Amendment, American women were basking in their newfound freedoms and “Chicago” depicts this euphoric emancipation.
I also appreciate “Chicago” because Gere is great and there are some creative pieces, like the puppet one and the tap-dancing part. All the musical skits are in Roxie’s imagination, except for the opening “All that Jazz” performed by Velma at the club and the climatic one, which features both Velma & Roxie.
The film runs 1 hour, 53 minutes.
GRADE: B

Miramax, Producers Circle, Storyline Entertainment by Rob Marshall, Bill Condon, Bob Fosse, Fred Ebb, Maurine Dallas Watkins.
Stars: Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Taye Diggs.

Genres: Comedy, Crime, Musical

Keywords: usa chicago musical jail based on play or musical lawyer prison matron jazz age 1920s 20th century

01/17/2003

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