Reviewed by: Megan Basham
One of the accusations made about entertainment is that it uses beautiful music and dazzling lights to entice us into accepting immoral and unethical behaviors. Do you believe this to be a problem, or do the “lights of Broadway” simply reveal what is already within our hearts? Do films bring out the immorality within the viewer or cause immorality?
When the legal system is manipulated for fame or profit, the injustice undermines the society at large. But what other system of justice would be more effective than our present one? What changes could be made to our present system to keep it from being used by unscrupulous people?
Most of us look to our entertainment to bring us joy and enrich our lives in some way. So why is it that so much of our entertainment deals with the negative side of life? What purpose does this fill? Why are our newspapers so full of negative news? Why are so many of the biblical stories about the negative behaviors of people?
—Denny and Hal, CinemainFocus.com
Starring: Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, Dominic West, Christine Baranski, Taye Diggs | Directed by: Rob Marshall | Produced by: Martin Richards, Marty Richards II, Harvey Weinstein | Written by: Bill Condon, Fred Ebb | Distributor: Miramax Films
The melodies, the costumes, the tap dancing: for all its traditional show-stopping elements, “Chicago” is definitely not your mother’s musical.
Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Richard Gere star in this 1920’s story of bad girls gone worse. Zellweger plays Roxie Hart, a shameless adulteress desperate to find fame on the vaudeville stage. After her lover reneges on a promise to set her up in showbiz, Roxie follows in the footsteps of her idol, Velma Kelly (Zeta-Jones), and murders him—ending up in Kelly’s same cell block to await her trial. Billy Flynn (Gere) is the flashy lawyer both ladies retain to mount their defense.
Following the trend from last year’s reinvention of the musical, “Moulin Rouge”, “Chicago” is stacked with glittering, glamorous numbers. The problem is the “PG-13” rating, which is hugely misleading considering the sensual nature of the songs, story, and choreography. In fact, the opening sex scene between Zellweger and a man not her husband would have been enough for me to bump it to “R”. Like many of the dresses worn to the Golden Globes awards, these ladies may not technically be naked, but hey, who are we kidding here? Also, the movie appears to celebrate the immorality of all its characters, implying “it may be wrong, but if you look good doing it…” Certainly not a message endorsed by Christ.
However, I have to admit that the artistic direction in songs like “They Both Reached for the Gun,” where Gere literally acts as the puppeteer of his client and the press, is particularly brilliant. And the satirical tone taken in the song, “Razzle Dazzle Them” truly speaks to the fallibility of the judicial system and, frankly, the flashiness often rewarded in the legal profession (one could easily picture Johnny Cochran performing Gere’s “tap dance”).
Both Queen Latifah (Matron Mama Morton) and John C. Reilly turn in engaging supporting performances, and it was nice to see a woman with Latifa’s figure treated as attractive—unlike Kathy Bates, whose physique in “About Schmidt” was used as a way to draw gasps of shock from the audience.
Unfortunately, though it is fun to watch Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones (two women whose faces are constantly plastered across the celluloid press) compete for a little newspaper coverage, “Chicago” succeeds in making iniquity look cool. Nobody learns any lasting lessons in this film, save, perhaps, for Zellweger’s long-suffering husband who learns that being a decent, loyal spouse makes him a chump. If you do go see “Chicago”, remind yourself, God will not be mocked and, someday, the consequences for ladies like these will come home to roost.