Fame hungry Roxie Hart dreams of a life on the Vaudville stage, and spends her nights jazzing it up in the bright lights of Chicago, continually hoping that she'll find her lucky break, and be shot into 1920's stardom, so able to flee her boring husband Amos. In awe of seductive club singer Velma Kelly (who is subsequantly arrested for the murder of her husband and sister - after discovering their affair), Roxie meets Fred Cassely a man who convinces her he can 'make her showbiz career take off'. However after Roxie has undergone the 'casting couch' treatment, and Fred has had his wicked way with her, he reveals that he has no more connections in showbusiness than she does. This is the final straw for Roxie, and her constant anger at rejection explodes. She shoots Fred Cassely and kills him. Upon discovering her infidelity, Roxie's husband Amos refuses to take the blame for the murder and Roxie is sent to jail, pending hanging. In jail she finally meets tabloid darling Velma Kelly, currently receiving huge media attention for the double murder she committed earlier in the tale. Sharing the clink with Velma, are a collection of other sly females, all awaiting trial for the murders of their own partners. Velma is aloof to Roxie, however the prison Warden Mrs Morton offers Roxie the opportunity of representation by slick Chicago lawyer Billy Flynn. Billy is more a showbiz P. R agent than a legal lawyer and minipulates the tabloids into thinking Roxie is no more than an innocent 'good time girl' who took the wrong path, than a scheming murderess. The tabloids go crazy for the new girl on the cell block, and Roxie finally becomes a star. However due to Roxie's new found fame, Velma is forgotten about. She is forced to approach Roxie with an offer of a part in her Vaudville act (filling the gap left by her murdered sister), but Roxie turns down her offer flat, thinking she needs no support in topping the bill. However, just as Velma's star fell, so does Roxie's, when Go-to-hell Kitty arrives at the jail on a multiple murder charge, the press forget Roxie and now she and Velma are in the same boat. With one more trick up her sleave Roxie manages to bring the media attention back onto her, and her day in court arrives. Billy is now ready to play the ultimate showman!
The music is accessible and well-done; Cell Block Tango is stunning, CZJ is solid gold, and you can't help but fall in love with Queen Latifah after Be Good to Mama. And seriously, who the hell would have expected that voice coming out of John C. Reilly? Amazing. Everything about this movie, right down to the costume and set design, is crafted with utmost cinematic love. Rob Marshall has created a beautiful paean to an art form that clearly means the world to him. I won't seek fault in it to justify my personal feelings, but simply admit that it isn't a movie for me.
It's no exaggeration to say that some of these song numbers are among the most famous and well-known musical performances, ever. Cell Block Tango, We Both Reached for the Gun, And All That Jazz...you don't have to be a huge theater fan to recognize these favorites. And even if this is your first exposure to them, expect to have them running through your mind days after you hear them. A few of the songs pale in comparison to the most popular ones, but overall the tunes in Chicago can stand toe-to-toe with nearly any other musical.
The big turn-off for me was the casting. Renee Zellweger simply failed to bring the character of Roxie to life, I don't know how else to put it. I didn't enjoy her character at all. Catherine Zeta-Jones, Queen Latifah and Richard Gere are more suited to their roles, but they still aren't as good as one could have wished. Lucy Liu was awesome in her brief part, though.
Anyway, Chicago is a good enough movie musical, but when the main character is ineptly handled it makes the whole experience less enjoyable for me. I'd rather just hear the songs and skip past Renee's weird faces and unconvincing acting.
Murderesses Velma Kelly (a chanteuse and tease who killed her husband and sister after finding them in bed together)and Roxie Hart (Who killed her boyfriend when she discovered he wasn't going to make her a star) find themselves on death row together and fight for the fame that will keep them from the gallows in 1920s Chicago.
This movie is brilliantly acted and wonderfully directed. Catherine Zeta-Jones superb portrayal of saucy Velma Kelly is matched against Renee Zellweger's equally manipulative Roxie Hart. Neither of these characters is worth redeeming, but the audience will root for them anyway.
Set in Prohibition Chicago, where jazz clubs are sheik and murder is a form of entertainment, Roxie Hart (Zellweger) is on trial for her life. Enter Billy Flynn (Richard Gere) a flamboyant lawyer more interested in manipulating the press than whether his client is guilty or innocent. Also features Queen Latifah as the warden who takes care of her charges...for a price!
The musical sequences are very well done, most notably "Press Room Rag" and of course the signature "All that Jazz". Also, kudos to John C. Reilly whose "Mr. Cellophane" solo is heartbreaking poignant.