Director: Rob Marshall
Wow! What else can I say? I loved the music, I loved the writing, I loved the direction, I loved the acting, I loved the story. My only criticism is that the movie isn’t exactly intellectually deep, but it’s fun, fantastic, and fast-paced, and it has Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger. What more do you want?
I was very impressed with the direction: it’s not a filmed musical, yet it incorporates a great deal of theatrical staging to generate the tone and style of a musical. For instance, Renee’s character, Roxie Hart, dreams of being a performer, so she fantasizes herself and others in various musical numbers. Those songs help tell the story, but because they’re fantasies, they aren’t constrained by realism. Brilliant. I also liked the way the songs had double meanings. For instance, during “Mama’s” solo (terrifically done by Queen Latifah), she sings lyrics with obvious sexual innuendo (“If you’re good to Mama she’ll be good to you!”) to the male audience but this is intercut with her as the prison warden, where those same lyrics take a on a completely different meaning as she accepts bribes for better treatment. Very cool. Speaking of cool, the music is awesome. I often don’t like musical music, especially period stuff (this is set in the 1920’s), but these songs were jazzy, hip, and wildly fun. Everyone in the cast looked like they were having a blast making this film. The acting is mostly ham (which is perfect since that’s the point of the story), though Zellweger has a few poignant moments where her acting is just breathtakingly real. (Like her great line when, right after being put into her jail cell for the first time, she tells the warden there must be something wrong with the heat because it’s so cold. Others might have done that campy or slapstick, but she played that so innocent and sincere it made you laugh even as you felt sorry for the character.)
As to the story, it’s wonderful. Hart wants to be a performer, while Velma (Zeta-Jones) is the toast of the town as a jazz singer. But when she finds her sister in bed with her husband, she shoots the both. Not long thereafter Roxie kills her lover and ends up in the same prison as Velma, and soon the two are vying for the attention of the press because they realize that public opinion will determine if they hang or not. The competition between the two women is terrific to watch, and the song and dance numbers great on all levels. There are a few places where things aren’t quite perfect (at the beginning when Zellweger verbally explains a month has gone by is a dud since to us there was no cut), but overall this is a wonderful movie, sure to become a classic.