Chicago Rob Marshall

Chicago Rob Marshall
Velma Kelley (Catherine Zeta-Jones) blanked out, killed her sister and then her lover. Roxie Hart (Rene Zellweger) whacked her furniture salesman boyfriend in a jealous rage. Both acts have landed them in the clink, but this will not keep them from what they desire. Shades of OJ, you say? Such is life in 1920s Chicago, Rob Marshall's timeless jazz-age satire on the American obsession with fame and its many perils. It helps that Chicago is not a "realistic" musical in the Sound of Music sense of the word. Unlike Moulin Rouge, last year's musical monument to bad taste and Attention Deficit Disorder, the performers in this piece are not shackled to cornball plots and ridiculous musical choices. Instead, the musical numbers are well-integrated into the narrative and shift effortlessly from one form to the next without breaking up the action. This is quasi-Brechtian vaudeville, a place where fantasy and reality, narrative and music intersect seamlessly and are given the chance to breathe. Credit here must be given to first-time director Rob Marshall, who has found a plausible and highly enjoyable way to integrate musical numbers without pandering to the constraints of theatrical realism. It doesn't hurt that he is a choreographer himself and understands the way to edit a film in synch with the dancing — cuts are made as extensions of the gestures, not pieced together roughshod like a P. Diddy video. And all of the performances are bang on, particularly Catherine Zeta-Jones, who is spectacular in her Oscar-winning role. But the surprise here is John C. Reilly, who as Roxie's much-maligned mechanic husband, Amos, provides a sad and poignant turn amongst all the flash and glamour. If the piece has a heart it is his, though it gets stomped on, to be sure. Among the extras are a deleted musical number, "Class," which can be viewed on its own, or with the director's commentary and a behind-the-scenes documentary. But I highly recommend watching the film's musical numbers at least once with the director's commentary on; it provides tremendous insight into the mechanics of choreography and filmmaking. Plus, some catty Richard Gere comments. Extras: deleted number; documentary; commentary. (Alliance Atlantis)