Review: Chicago

Published 11 years ago by

By Vic Holtreman

Short version: A technically well made film that glorifies all that is rotten in the human spirit.

I finally saw Chicago on DVD.

In my opinion, the fact that this won a bunch of Academy Awards (including Best Picture) is the most effective indictment of Hollywood I can think of… but I digress.

If I hadn’t been planning on reviewing this film, I would have turned it off about 15 minutes in. I was sitting there wondering who exactly I’m supposed to be rooting for… Roxie (Ren?e Zellweger)? That was the closest person I could come up with and she surely did not fit the bill. I mean at first, sure… wide-eyed newbie to the big city trying to make it in show biz (never heard that story before), shoots abusive guy who just wanted to get down her pants.

Ah, but then… her clueless husband taking the rap thinking she shot a burglar. As he sits there confessing, her mind wanders off to a musical stage version of what’s happpening in front of her, with her as the star (of course). Nevermind that her husband is throwing himself on a grenade for her. He soon figures out she was sleeping with the guy and Roxie accuses him of being unfaithful.

She goes to jail and finds herself at the bottom of the totem pole. Hires famous lawyer (Richard Gere), gets famous in the papers, then treats Velma (Catherine Zeta-Jones) the same way she (Roxie) was treated, which was rotten, when the tables are turned.

Just a really likeable character.

Her husband tries to support her by paying for the lawyer and thinking that he is the father of her child even though they hadn’t had sex in many more months than would have made the math work out. Throughout this every single thing that happens is turned into a selfish fantasy on her part.

Is she innocent? No. Is she misunderstood? No. Is she a selfish, self-involved, sociopath? Yes.

In my mind, it is quite clear why this movie struck a (positive) nerve with the Academy: It’s what they’re all about. Fame and success at any cost, morality and ethics… what are those? Just stumbling blocks to be overcome to get what they want. It’s all about me, me, me, and the hell with you.

The sorry part is that in the end she gets what she wants, and is in fact glorified for how she arrived there.

These are the people making moral pronouncements against the current government and protesting the war. Yeah, whatever. Your word carries so much weight.

Sure, it was well-photographed and as a musical on film it succeeded at least to a point. About 3/4 of the way through I started fast-forwarding through the musical sequences. But so what? I’m sure someone out there could manage to make a technically well-made film glorifying pedophiles, but would that still make it worthy of a Best Picture award? Oh wait, Roman Polanski did get best director for The Pianist, so I suppose a movie like that probably would get an award. Naysayers would just be called “closed-minded”, “uninformed”, or oh yeah their favorite: “Bigots”.

On a final note, considering the content of this film: thinly veiled sexuality, murder, infidelity, etc., I was stunned to see that it was rated PG-13. Yeah, great stuff to have your teenager watch.

Our Rating:

1.5 out of 5
(Poor, A Few Good Parts)

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  1. I saw Chicago on Broadway a few years ago. That production was just as bad. I went with a group from work, and most of us walked out at intermission.

    Given that, had absolutely NO desire to see the movie.

  2. The only reason I wanted to see it was due to the accolades it received at the Oscars plus the vast majority of reviews were positive.

    Like I said, if I hadn’t planned on reviewing it I wouldn’t have made it even to the halfway point. In retrospect it seems I could have almost written it after just watching 15 minutes. Since the theme, style, and story never deviated from the setup.


  3. Vic, I’m shocked. You saw a movie simply because it won some Oscars?! I thought you knew better than that. 😛

    Seriously, though, the fact that it won all the Oscars kind of heightened my interest in seeing it, but I never did end up seeing it. I’m just not a big fan of any of the leads in that movie. If you really want to be frustrated by how a movie’s title character gets away with sleazy behavior, check out Robert Altman’s The Player.


  4. Ah, but see in The Player it was obvious that the Hollywood status quo was being skewered. In Chicago it seemed like it was being glorified.

    Big difference there, IMO.


  5. Just a quick note about chicago. Number 1 it was a musical and no one even mentioned the extremely well done dance and music which is probably why it won the oscar. Second it was a period piece, about 1920/30’s chicago. If you would check into it you would find that the Roxy Hart story did happen. It is sad that our nation had those moments in history where glitter and muckraking and yellow journalism ran rampant (much like it is now) but there it is.

  6. Well you have me there. I did not know the film was based on a real event. Of course the Hollywood version of real events usually has little resemblance to what really happened.

    My ire with the film has to do with the overall attitude of the thing, which was not critical of what happened but seemed to embrace it.


  7. PG-13 ain’t what is used to be

    Harvard researchers have determined that over the past decade there has been what they’ve termed “ratings creep” in regards to…