2002 • Chicago

Chicago, 2002 Best PictureWednesday night, Lauren and I came back from an after-work happy hour at Minneapolis’s famous CC Club and plopped down on the couch for our next Best Picture, 2002’s Chicago, the film based on the 1975 stage production by the same name. Chicago is an unusual combination of a cold murder case intertwined with fun musical numbers. Though in the movie the musical numbers are mostly just the fantasies of the lead character, they also help to advance the story. Certainly one of the most original premises for the flow of a movie in our project so far.

Renee Zellweger stars as Roxie Hart, an aspiring nightclub performer who murders her lover who lied about having connections in the industry. This happens the very same night that her idol, Velma Kelly, is arrested for the murder of her sister and husband after finding them in bed together. Roxie manages to hire Chicago’s finest lawyer, Billy Flynn (Richard Gere) who creates a media frenzy with her story, pushing Velma’s story to the back page. Musical numbers take place throughout the movie, from prison to the courtroom. Will the jury believe Roxie is innocent and set her free where she can capitalize on her newfound fame?

I had seen Chicago once before, probably in college with Chris Ahrendt, as he was big into movie musicals like that. The songs instantly came back to me, including that really weird “Cell Block Tango” number.

Chicago winning the 2002 Best Picture is a bit of a surprise to me. It seemed to be up against some stiff competition, and it was a rare Hollywood musical. Sure, there were tons of musical movies earlier in our project, but none since 1968’s Oliver! brought home the Oscar. Musicals began making a bit of a comeback in 2001 when Moulin Rouge! was nominated for Best Picture. The fact that Moulin Rouge!, in my opinion, was the superior musical movie to Chicago made Chicago’s win all the more surprising.

I certainly liked what Chicago did with the flow of events. I thought the story was interesting and well-acted. The music wasn’t quite as catchy or as memorable as I would have liked—I mean, I remember a song from Gigi better than I do any of the songs from Chicago. Roxie was so optimistic throughout the movie, never really believing she could be convicted of murder—a perfect role for Zellweger. I mustn’t forget the smaller acting roles of Queen Latifah and John C. Reilly, who was bound to win at the 2002 Academy Awards. He was a principle actor in three of the five movies nominated for Best Picture—Gangs of New York, The Hours, and Chicago.

When all said and done, I ranked Chicago 48th on my rankings. Fun while it lasted, but not very memorable.

1 Comment

  1. You’re a little off on the timing. Velma had been in prison for a while before Roxie killed her lover.


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