With a strong cast of actors and actresses, including the aforementioned Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Queen Latifah, as well as the infamous Richard Gere as Billy Flynn, Christine Baranski (Mary Sunshine) the fluff journalist in the film and John C. Reilley as Roxy’s husband, this was truly a unique and amazing film.
Plotwise it is a truly interesting film focused on feminism and corruption. The film is unique in that it takes the classic view of women and completely trashes that idea. You won’t find a Betty Crocker mom who cooks or a cheerful stay at home wife in this film. The female characters are strong and vivacious, emphasizing their dreams and trying to live in a sexist society. The film also uncovers the ruthless and blatant corruption during the 1920’s. Through Billy Flynn’s character it emphasizes the corruption in law and power, how a jury can be persuaded by a performance rather than logic or arguments. It also touches on the power of fame and its price as the murderesses all vie for front page news attention. The film exposes of all of these details while being quick, light-hearted and snappy. The corruption is truly highlighted during the scene in which the only innocent woman in Cook County Jail is hung. This scene juxtaposes the idea of justice and proves that good looks, cunning and a sharp tongue are all one needs to avoid execution and to even begin a career.
The film's constant switches from film to musical numbers provide alternative points of view, often clashing with what is going on in the scene to evoke humor as well as the absurdity of it all. The musical numbers pay tribute to the original Chicago musical and are orchestrated quite well. Although one of the best scenes and musical sequences is the Cell Block Tango number in which the 6 Merry Murderesses explain why they are each in prison and why what they did was “a murder but not a crime.” The musical numbers are truly unique and pretty amazing. The story shifts are eased through the usage of the musical numbers, in which the musical numbers downplay or over exaggerate certain ideas or principles. During the press conference number Richard Gere is portrayed as a ventriloquist and Hart as a giant dummy, in which he proceeds to use her as a ventriloquist does a dummy, by speaking and acting for her, establishing her history and creed. At the same time he is also seen as a puppeteer where all the reporters are his puppets in which he is truly orchestrating the whole seen.
Almost all of the musical numbers are quite memorable with perhaps the exception of Mr. Cellophane in which Hart’s husband laments over his loss and what a fool he has been. Queen Latifah’s number is one of the greatest parts most likely second to the Cell Block Tango.
Overall, the film has has a lot of memorable moments, a strong plot and excellent musical numbers. However there are some dry or rather to be quite frank boring scenes in which the film can feel overtly long. The length of the film can be quite daunting, boasting a total run time of 113 minutes. On anoter note, there are some minor flaws with the movie and the time period (ie. inconsistent scenes with technology from a different era) and some minor changes that they forgot or ignored as they shot each scene. As a whole the film is definitely worth watching if you’re a musical buff or anybody who wants to enjoy a snazzy slice of history with jazz, sex and scantily clad murderesses. I rate this film a 4.7 out of 5, since it's a great piece of work with historical context yet thoroughly enjoyable.
Side Note: Catherine Zeta-Jones to ensure that fans knew that it was her dancing and not a look alike dancer she purposely requested a short bob wig. (Now that's true commitment!)
For all of you who still doubt please watch Cell Block Tango and tell me that it is not EPIC.