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(2002, Marshall)
The last Best Picture winner I haven't seen

"You're a phony celebrity and in two weeks no one's going to give a s-hit about you... that's Chicago."

Chicago follows Roxie Hart (Renée Zellweger), a housewife and aspiring entertainer that finds herself in jail for murder. While there, she hires Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), a brilliant but self-absorbed attorney that also happens to be representing Roxie's idol, Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones). This puts both Roxie and Velma in a tug-o-war to hog the spotlight of their trials.

Musicals are a genre I rarely delve into when I was a teen. However, as I started getting more into films in the late 90s, I've been getting more and more into them. For some reason, Chicago went past me and I never got around to seeing it, not even as I've been watching all Best Picture winners. Until now.

One could say that Chicago works on two planes: first, the straightforward plot about Roxie's trial and her attempts to gain fame at all costs through it; and second, the musical numbers, which are usually shot on stage, independently of the first plane, and then weaved into the film through editing.

I might be a sole minority, but I found that aspect a bit disappointing, at least in many of the sequences. Part of me wishes there would've been a better integration between what's actually happening in the film and what's being sung and danced, instead of having a separate performance. However, it does lend itself to some interesting juxtapositions (the hanging of Helinszki, for example) and there are some times when actors do cross from one plane to the other.

Putting that aside, most of the songs are quite catchy and lively. I think "Mister Cellophane" and "We Both Reached for the Gun" were the most memorable for me, both in terms of music, performance, and what they mean regarding the story.

The performances are also quite good. The role of Roxie fits Zellweger perfectly, but I was more impressed by Zeta-Jones and Gere, both of which I found to be quite energetic and vibrant. I was very surprised by Gere, who is usually a very subdued actor, but he was very good. John C. Reilly and Queen Latifah round up a solid supporting cast.

In the end, the film ends up being a condemnation of the wants and spoils of fame and celebrity, and how fleeting it can be in the eyes of the press and the audience: "That's Chicago!", says Flynn at one point to show Roxie how the city operates. 20 years have passed and it seems that the "Chicago rule" doesn't apply to Chicago itself.