Tuesday, 31 March 2009

DVD Review - Chicago

Out of all the films I’d reviewed up to this point, Chicago was the hardest to review. It’s just so much a matter of personal taste, much more so than most other movies, and even I can’t quite work out just how much I like it! But… I will do my best, be it ever so ‘umble…

Chicago is set in the 20’s, a time of jazz, booze, and a new era of freedom for women. However, Roxie (Renee Zellweger) and a dancer she idolises (played by Catherine Zeta Jones) have both just had their freedom taken away, since both are in jail for murder (and both are guilty). Despite being in jail, Zellweger still wants to attain stardom, while Zeta Jones doesn’t want her existing star status to slip. Both seek the help of a wily Lawyer (Richard Gere) and the prison Warden (“Mama”, played by Queen Latifah) in order to help them manipulate the media and public opinion in the quest for freedom and stardom.

What ensues is a biting satire of the legal and journalistic world – the law courts are swayed by public opinion, which is guided by the press, which is manipulated by the solicitors…

The way the film is shown through Roxie’s eyes, which means the insertion of “dream sequences” to get around the problem of “how are we going to fit the songs in without making it look contrived?”. It’s very well done and the way that some of the songs (like a fabulous tango sequence in the jail) are introduced by normal sounds (tapping fingers, the drip of a tap, etc) slowly turning into the beat of the song. The plot is quite dark and the ending is sort of happy – but the characters are basically unlikeable (though Zellweger does for a time maintain a certain innocence at first, this is stripped away completely be halfway through the film). You still care what happens, just not particularly what happens to Roxie. The only sympathetic character is her husband, faithful but not too bright (which is a large part of the reason why he’s faithful).

The song and dance routines range from breathtakingly good (the aforementioned tango in prison, where the other murderesses explain why / how they did it) to good (the opening sequence with Zeta Jones performing “And all that Jazz”, “Be good to Mama” by Queen Latifah – she can really beltout a tune - and “Razzle Dazzle ‘em” with Gere in full smarmy swing) to the rest, which are good-ish but not wonderful. The film does suffer from not having any truly memorable songs, but not too much.

There’s quite a bit of flesh on display and Queen Latifah is in constant danger of falling out of her dress (extremely scary thought, that ), though nothing graphic. The same with the violence, and the sex scene at the beginning of the film is definitely not for kiddies. (You don’t actually see anything but you can see the movements clearly enough!)

The choreography ranges from very good to sheer brilliance, and the set designs are gorgeous and extremely evocative of the era. I’m quite a fan of Renee and she does very well as Roxie. I’m not a fan of Catherine or Gere, particularly, but they are also very good in their roles too, as indeed are all of the cast. The music is good throughout without ever being brilliant.

The DVD comes with the obligatory “Bonus” features – a “making of” featurette that has some interesting moments but is rather too self-congratulatory to really be entertaining, and a song with Queen Latifah and Catherine Zeta Jones called “Class”, that had to be cut from the movie in the end. The Producers go on about how wonderful it was and how they hated having to leave it out, but I’m afraid it did very little to me.

Overall

Hmm… tricky. It’s darker than Moulin Rouge but I’m convinced that if you liked that, you will like this too. There are many aspects of this film that are very impressive and it certainly does have style. If you didn’t like that film, you probably won’t like this either.

Although I do like it (perhaps not quite as much as Moulin Rouge), it’s not a film I could watch over and over again – it’ll be a long time before I watch it again. But having said that, I’m very glad I did watch it. If you like musicals, or if you’re a fan of Zellweger, Zeta Jones, or Gere, it would definitely help.

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