Movie Review: Chicago

Chicago Trailer

Chicago Summary

In 1924, Roxie Hart watches lead role Velma Kelly perform (“Overture/All That Jazz”) at a Chicago theater. Wanting stardom for herself, she begins an affair with Fred Casely, who claims to know the manager. After the show, Velma is arrested for killing her husband Charlie and sister Veronica, after finding them in bed together.

A month later, Casely admits to Roxie that he has no showbiz connections and just wanted to sleep with her. Enraged, she shoots him dead. She convinces her husband, Amos, to take the blame, telling him she killed a burglar in self-defense. As Amos confesses to the detective, Roxie fantasizes that she is singing a song devoted to her husband (“Funny Honey”). However, when the detective brings up evidence of Roxie’s affair with Casely, Amos recants; Roxie furiously admits the truth and is arrested. Ambitious District Attorney Martin Harrison announces he will seek the death penalty.

At Cook County Jail, Roxie is sent to Murderess’ Row, supervised by the corrupt Matron “Mama” Morton (“When You’re Good to Mama”). Roxie meets her idol Velma, but her friendship is rudely rebuffed. She learns the backstories of the other women there, including Velma (“Cell Block Tango”). On Morton’s advice, Roxie engages Velma’s lawyer, the brilliant Billy Flynn (“All I Care About”). Flynn and Roxie manipulate the press, reinventing Roxie as an originally virtuous woman corrupted by the fast life of the city; she claims that she had the affair with Casely because Amos was always working, but repented and left Casely for Amos, and Casely jealously attacked her (“We Both Reached for the Gun”). The press believe the story; praised by the public as a tragic heroine, Roxie becomes an overnight sensation (“Roxie”). Velma, unhappy at losing the public’s attention, tries to convince Roxie to join her act, replacing the sister that she murdered (“I Can’t Do It Alone”), but Roxie, now the more popular of the two rivals, snubs her just as Velma originally snubbed Roxie.

Meanwhile, wealthy heiress Kitty “Go-To-Hell Kitty” Baxter, is arrested for murdering her husband and his two lovers, and the press and Flynn focus more on her. To Velma’s surprise, Roxie quickly steals back the fame by claiming pregnancy. Amos is ignored by the press (“Mister Cellophane”), and Flynn, to create more sympathy for Roxie, convinces him that the child is Casely’s, and that he should divorce Roxie in the middle of her predicament. Roxie over-confidently fires Flynn, believing she can now win on her own. However, when Katalin Helinszki, a Hungarian woman on Murderess’ Row (who happens to be the only inmate to protest and insist on her own innocence), becomes the first woman in Cook County history to be executed by hanging, Roxie realizes the gravity of the situation and rehires Flynn.

Roxie’s trial begins, and Billy turns it into a media spectacle (“Razzle Dazzle”) with the help of the sensationalist newspaper reporters and radio personality Mary Sunshine. Billy discredits witnesses, manipulates evidence, and even stages a public reconciliation between Amos and Roxie when she says the child is his. The trial seems to be going Roxie’s way until Velma appears with Roxie’s diary, reading incriminating entries in exchange for amnesty in her own case. Billy discredits the diary, implying that Harrison was the one who planted the evidence (“A Tap Dance”). Roxie is acquitted, but her fame is eclipsed moments later when another woman, who had also shot her own husband, shoots her lawyer just outside the courthouse. Flynn tells her to accept it, and admits that he tampered with her diary himself, in order to incriminate the district attorney and also free two clients simultaneously. Amos remains loyal and excited to be a father, but Roxie cruelly rejects him, revealing her pregnancy is false, and he finally leaves her.

Roxie does become a vaudeville performer, but is very unsuccessful (“Nowadays”). The similarly-unsuccessful Velma reapproaches Roxie to suggest performing together as a double act consisting of two murderers. Roxie initially refuses, but later accepts when Velma points out that they can perform together despite their resentment for each other. The two stage a spectacular performance that earns them praise from the audience and the press (“Nowadays / Hot Honey Rag”). The film concludes with Roxie and Velma receiving a standing ovation from an enthusiastic audience (which includes Flynn, Morton, the jurors and other acquitted murderesses), and proclaiming that, “We couldn’t have done it without you”.

Chicago Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A Classic musical set around women in prison. Brilliantly done.

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