Sunday, December 29, 2002

Chicago (IMDB) (Netflix)
Two-timing murderous dames, wondrous gams, mouthpieces and mealtickets, thrown together in a musical tribute to ambition and amorality. Rene Zellweger is a chorus girl manqué who gets exploited by her boy on the side, but not for long, and ends up in prison with a bunch of other leggy women who were severely provoked while premenstrual. Catherine Zeta-Jones is one of Zellweger's rivals for sympathetic publicity, and Richard Gere is the never-lose lawyer with more chutzpah than a Jewish cat with all nine lives.

While its recent predessor Moulin Rouge was groundbreaking but exhausting, Chicago is more conventional but lighter on its feet. To use the reviewer's cliche, it "crackles," with snappy 1930s patter, aggressive editing, endless black lingerie and no apologies for the outrageous behavior of its lead characters. Zellweger is as far from "you had me at 'hello'" as she can get and Zeta-Jones is bitchy to the core. Gere really sells it, and has to, because in reader Sara Schneider's eyes, he's strayed too far from his old bad-boy persona (those Buddhists will do that to you). Musical fans might quibble about some of the vocal performances (which are by the actors), but this is a musical that works for people who think they don't like musicals. Like me.