I’m not gonna be the Debbie Downer who talks about how this movie is a satire of the demonization of women who vengefully act against the abuses they face from their partners. Or that the musical and its adaptations came out within different contexts, the 1970’s urban prurience, the 1990’s circus trials and the cynical escapism and ‘reality’ crazed 2000’s reflect the prurient, circus-y crazy escapism of 1920’s Chicago. This movie’s too fun and campy for that.
Not like I can cite these opinions I’m talking about, but Chicago today is treated as a shallow visual exercise, that other films deserved the Best Picture trophy better, and that it’s dated. How terrible of a fate for a film to be called dated. It’s only eight and a half year’s old! I don’t have the problem with the separate worlds of gritty jail and colourful cabaret fantasy, the transitions between the two are seamless. Maybe because both worlds are as colourful, unlike the drastic cinematography changes between the fantasy and ‘real’ segments in director Rob Marshall’s later work, Nine. My problem on that department is that the takes are too short and quick, sometimes the audience can’t see the actors perform their song and dance, especially with Richard Gere‘s Billy Flynn. Sometimes it shakes too much, like when Kitty Baxter (Lucy Liu) is arrested, stealing Roxie’s thunder, or the last number.
There’s been also been many discussions about the casting. Sometimes I think about what Goldie Hawn, Liza Minelli and Frank Sinatra would have done under Bob Fosse. I’m also pretty sure that some of you are slightly bitter that Charlize Theron, Toni Collette, Hugh Jackman and Kathy Bates weren’t in the movie version we have now. Yes, I’ll admit that Gere is the weakest link of the cast. Sometimes he doesn’t know what to do with his arms. He gets a showy role but like every capable actor given a boisterous character, he doesn’t always turn it up to 11. it’s Although his renditions of his songs border on sprechgesang, his voice is still nice to listen to.
And he may be Mr. Cellophane all right, but John C. Reilly can outsing Gere any day.
I’m probably one of the people who will defend Renee Zellweger‘s casting and performance as Roxie. Yes, her face is a bit twitchy, but her dancing not that’s bad. Although I do have to see a stage adaptation for comparison in the triple threat department. She has a wiry, sinewy body, not as voluptuous as her co-star Catherine Zeta-Jones, like she’s lived a life of poverty. Her voice is also a little hoarse, like a female version of a schmoe. My favourite song from the film is starting to change to ‘I Can’t do it Alone,’ or ‘We Both Reached For The Gun.’ Nonetheless, Roxie’s songs always catch me, like ‘Funny Honey’ and ‘Roxie,’ because there’s anger and delusion to them. The latter number, when we see her body from tilting close-ups to wide shots of her body into the darkness of her fantasy, or when she looks to the right and finds a mirror, and more mirrors. Those are my favourite images of this film.
Zeta-Jones’ Velma Kelly needs the least defense from me, because her Oscar-winning turn’s pretty much well received even now. Some regard it as the best Supporting Actress win the past decade. Zellweger’s hoarseness matches Zeta-Jones’ raspiness, reflecting the anger and toughness that comes with her situation then as a dancer who had to make her way to the top and her desperation in jail. Egyptian dancers and her theatre background would be proud.
‘Cameron Diaz is born in 1972. Her father is Cuban and her mother is part Cherokee. Her Cherokee heritage is the reason we’re showing her movies here at APTN.’ So says the voice-over. Here she’s paired with Pete (Owen Wilson), because the film would rather pay for martial arts training than pay for the more expensive Wilson brother.
This should be bad movie territory, and of course it’s not perfect. It’s also an excuse to advertise Nokia, and break said Nokia. The film also has a lot of different espionage scenarios that it might as well be written by the manatees who write Family Guy, which isn’t that bad of a thing here. I saw it for the first time was when I was twelve. The film also makes room for comedy that I can still laugh at today. I don’t know where comedy is placed in McG‘s priorities, so I’ll give the cast credit for that. Fact! Lucy Liu was the fifth choice to play Alex. Other actresses slotted to play Alex were Julia Roberts and Jada Pinkett-Smith, who have their own humour. Other actresses Angelina Jolie and Thandie Newton can wear skimpy leather office wear. But I can only see Liu balance sexy, campy and funny, both dominating and empowering the Red Star engineers. Of course, the film needs someone who can bring funny as much as Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Bill Murray, who have a steady hand in comedy work.
And who can turn down Bill Murray who in the film look like he’s almost improvising? ‘May I have some ice water please?’ He then does some pretend crying, talks to a bird, plays catch with a wall, put antenna in his head, makes fun of Cher. Hilarious.
‘Bitch’ is used in the film at a time when, I imagine, it would sting as bad as the c-word did last year. The word is mostly directed to the angels. The frumpy woman at Red Star says it to Alex, Natalie (Diaz) says it to Eric Knox’s associate Vivian Wood. But when a guy says it to Natalie, he gets punished for it. To our delight.
Fact! Although this is the movie that helped Barrymore into a marriage with Tom Green, this movie put her in the arms of another man. Sam Rockwell and her play doomed couple Eric Knox and Dylan. This won’t be the last time Rockwell’s character would hide something from Barrymore’s. They’ll also be paired up two years later in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Their careers have gone on different paths, but someone pair these two people again, in a more serious movie this time.
The sequence is also one of director McG’s Wachowski Brothers references in the action part of the film, Knox shooting Dylan bullet time style and all. Dylan would later do air kicks, destroying four guys at the same time. Dylan is the shorter and more voluptuous of the girls, the others look like ballerinas while they’re fighting. But she throws more punches that the audience can feel.
The Chad (Tom Green) is great. Where is the Chad? I still think he’s funny and it’s weird to see this film showing him as a relic of the past. Well, as long as he isn’t doing damage to movies today. He’s Canadian? Dammit I was looking forward to hating him!
The film also has a well-rounded soundtrack that covered my bipolar music tastes spanning a decade, from Prodigy to Heart. And of course, to the disco music that is the only clear reference to the TV show in which the movie is based. The final act doesn’t show what Charlie looks like but where Charlie lives. I imagined him to be more of an office guy than some old coot with a Hawaiian shirt on a beach house. Strange. Anyway, Hope you had fun as much as I did.
- Casting the ‘Charlie’s Angels’ Reboot (tvsquad.com)