Roxie Hart has wanted to be a star for as long as she can remember and she thinks she is finally on her way to the stage. The man she has been having an affair with, Fred, has promised her for weeks to introduce her to his friend at the Onyx, a jazz nightclub in Chicago. Although Fred is just a furniture salesman he claims to have connections in the entertainment world. But Fred is not who he says he is and after confessing that he only lied to get Roxie into bed and he is now leaving her, Roxie shoots Fred dead in her own bedroom. Her husband Amos comes home from work and she convinces him that Fred was a burglar who she had to shot to protect herself, she is surely to get into trouble so Amos takes the wrap for shooting the burglar he found about to violate his wife when he got home from work. But Roxie has neglected to keep her affair a secret and the district attorney sees right through the lies. As soon as Amos finds out that Fred, the man who sold him there furniture is the “burglar” he figures out Roxie’s rouse and gives her up. Roxie is arrested and sent to Cook County Jail and housed on murderess’ row. Roxie is in luck, because the famous nightclub singer Velma Kelly is housed in the same unit. Roxie was at the Onyx the night Velma was arrested for killing her husband and sister after finding them in bed together. The two women begin to compete over the spotlight as each tries to out do the other for the front page of the papers and the chance to become a celebrity because of their crimes.
Chicago the movie is based on the award-winning Broadway play of the same title and is directed by former choreographer Rob Marshall who recently took the helm in directing Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. The entire movie is full of the who’s who of Hollywood’s a-listers. Roxie Hart is perfectly portrayed by Renee’ Zellweger. She is an imaginative young woman who will do anything to become a celebrity. The effervescent Catherine Zeta-Jones plays the chanteuse Velma Kelly. She is at the top of her game in this musical full of gorgeous songs and glittering choreography. Another outstanding performance is given by the beautiful Queen Latifah as the jailhouse supervisor Matron Mama Morton. You can’t forget about the performances given by the men of Chicago. John C. Reilly plays the bumbling hubby of Roxie Hart, Amos. He steals the show with his half-witted portrayal and standout performances like “Mr. Cellophane”. And where would any movie about the justice system be without the sleazy silver-tongued lawyer. Richard Gere is defense lawyer Billy Flynn who only cares about love and helping wrongly accused women who have five thousand dollars.
Chicago is a sexy and smart musical full of jazz, liquor, and everything else that made the roaring twenties what they were. The songs are beautifully written and cleverly choreographed, these are not just song and dance numbers but gloriously unique takes on the Broadway standards. Numbers like the “Cell Block Tango” and “We Both Reached for the Gun” are fun and catchy as the women of murderess row describe their crimes and Billy Flynn performs a ventriloquist act with star dummy client Roxie on his lap. It is a scathing expose into the double standards of celebrity that seems to have taken over every aspect of life. Chicago was nominated and won numerous Oscar awards including Best Picture of 2003, and Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Catherine Zeta-Jones. Both were very well deserved and hit the nail on the head in identifying great performances in movie making. Chicago has become one of the American standards of great movies. Every movie buff should have a copy in their collection to enjoy anytime. And remember life may not work out the way you want it to- but that’s showbiz, kid.