A flash of leg, the taste of gin, the smell of corruption, and things that go bump in the night.
Directed by: Rob Marshall
Written by: Maureen Dallas Watkins (play); Fred Ebb, Bob Fosse (musical); Bill Condon (screenplay)
Starring: Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, Lucy Liu, Christine Baranski, Taye Diggs
2002 Cosmique Movie Awards:
Went to see a matinée of "Chicago" yesterday. Liked it very very much. I have never seen the stage show and am only slightly familiar with the songs and story. I thought Rob Marshall did a great job of bringing a musical to the screen in a way that the musical-haters can deal with. I'm hoping this film opens H'wood up to musicals again.
There were some very fine stagings and transitions that took advantage of the medium. There was some eye-boggling choreography in parts. Most of the choreography was hard to appreciate because the camera had a bit of ADD (in deference to people who are afraid of musicals, methinks). "All I Care About" has two choreography moments that just blew me away, despite this fear of dance.
The stars all had surprisingly good voices for Hollywood A-list actors. Still, there was something a little hollow in their vocal performances. They hit the right notes. They had strength in their voices. But the true power of singing actors, the kind that any Broadway regular has, was missing. The standout was John C. Reilly singing "Mr. Cellophane". Although short of true B'way greatness, he had a really strong tenor and it was shocking to hear it coming out of such a big guy. And he did a fantastic acting job although I think the choreography they gave him for that song was too limiting.
Anyway, I think it's a swell film, a sexy film, a feast for fans of period props, and fun coupla hours at the flickers.
I did see the Broadway revival (but when it came to SF, not in New York), and have listened to the B'way soundtrack dozens (if not hundreds) of times.
Movie musicals can be very challenging -- movies have the advantage of realism that a stage cannot match, but that can make the requesite "suspension of belief" more difficult when individuals suddenly launch into song. "Chicago" addresses that brilliantly by making most of the musical numbers into fantasy dream sequences.
I got chills twice when watching it. The first came when the first note struck -- I swear my body temperature dropped 10 degrees. The second was in the final musical number. Great way to bookend a great film.
I've never been a huge fan of Catherine Zeta-Jones, but she was so much better than I expected. (I'm looking forward to the DVD, when two of her songs that had to be cut will be reinstated.) Renee Zellweger's voice wasn't the strongest, but she had a lot of screen charm. I don't think Richard Gere deserved the Golden Globe, but he was better equipped for the role than I expected. Queen Latifah lived up to my high expectations. And John C. Reilly totally astonished me.
I, too, highly recommend it.
Don't focus so much on individual performances -- it is such an ensemble (as are most K&E musicals and anything that was originally Fosse) ... I truly think the best number in the movie (and the best, in terms of translating from stage-to-screen) was "Cellblock Tango." The consistent use of the red scarf, in lieu of violence, was one of the sexiest and most poetic additions to the whole production.
Just saw Chicago again and was still impressed. A bit of Googling on various related subjects turned up this Chron article on movie musicals. I'm a big fan of movie musicals because I can *afford* to see them as opposed to even a touring production of a B'way show. I hope Chicago helps more get made, but I'm also worried because each bad movie musical just adds fuel to the fire of musical haters. This is very similar to the American stigma against comics. Sure, there are a lot of crappy comics. There are a lot of crappy novels, too, but that doesn't stop people from reading novels.
One of the perennial questions this article raises is whether American audiences can actual suspend their disbelief when characters burst into song. My attitude is that if they can take it onstage, they should be able to take it onscreen. It might need to be finessed a little, but I think it's possible.