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Old Fashioned

Chicago the Movie

62 posts in this topic

Well, I'm moderately excited. Any ambitious new movie musical is an event these days, of course. I have serious doubts about Richard Gere in that role, but you never know. I also wish very intensely that Bob Fosse were still around to direct.

I was interested to read that the filmmakers decided to present the musical numbers as imagined events -- something going on in Roxie's head -- because they decided that audiences wouldn't accept the characters singing and dancing straight out. Even if this film is a success, that's not a good sign for future musicals.

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Originally posted by dirac

I have serious doubts about Richard Gere in that role, but you never know.  I also wish very intensely that Bob Fosse were still around to direct.

I totally agree with you on that. There's a clip somewhere around online of him singing "Razzle Dazzle" and sounded...strange...(what kind of accent is he using?). Hugh Jackman would be so much better in the role, if only he didn't have to do an X-men sequel. I wish Fosse was alive, also, and have Bette Midler and Liza star in it as original planned (the movie would have been shot much earlier, though). I'm still looking forward to seeing Catherine Zeta-Jones- who I hear is amazing in it- and Renee Zellweger star as the "merry murderesses."

I didn't know that the movie was through the eyes and imagination of Roxie, but it seems pretty clever to me. I read a review of it already and the critic actually criticized it for being too theatrical and wasn't filmed like a movie. The critic went on to compare it to Cabaret, and said Cabaret was "movie"-like while Chicago was like a filming of a stage production.

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There's an inherent difference between Cabaret and Chicago, though. In making the movie of the former, they had to re-write and make a screenplay out of what had become a rather poor formula musical that stayed alive on Broadway largely on star-power. Christopher Isherwood was dead, so that took him out of the picture, and a good thing, as one of the things that injured the stage show was his insistence on erasing all reference to his homosexuality! He'd been out for years, what with Berlin Stories and I am a Camera, but for some reason, he didn't want it mentioned! Well, that was "Herr Issyvoo" for you.

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Hugh Jackman would have been perfect! I saw him in a concert version of Carousel last Spring - it is delightful how someone so gorgeous can be so talented! He has a very attractive singing voice.

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I did not read anything from Playbill, but don't recall offhand where I did see it.

I haven't seen the stage show, but I did read both adaptations, including the Van Druten non-musical one. I thought a flaw in all of the adaptations, including the film, was that the original story was remodeled into a Star Vehicle, with virtually everything set up to showcase adorable quirky Sally. To a certain extent, this was unavoidable – that's showbiz. But it did mean that less attractive sides of Sally's personality were elided, she has WAY too much talent, and so on. (I thought Minnelli's final number in the movie, performed in bravura Liza At the Palace style, was especially ludicrous.)

I think I know why Isherwood didn't want homosexuality mentioned. It wasn't squeamishness, since as Mel notes Isherwood was always very open, even militant, in such matters. But not in his art, until his later novels. If you inject a sex plot where it was not intended to be, you don't expand the meanings – you contract them. Issy doesn't have any sex in the original; his sexuality is suggested but not stated. A central part of Isherwood's artistic method is based on what is not said. It's not always an advance, or an improvement, to shout from the rooftops what need only be implied. In the film, Issyvoo "progresses" to two sexes, and it's too much.

He didn't die until the mid-eighties, I'm pretty sure.

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You are correct; I must have been thinking of W.H. Auden, who died in 1973. Forgive me, it was early this morning!;)

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Returning to the Gere issue, while I am always happy to see Hugh Jackman, we need someone a little, well sleazier. I'm thinking Kevin Spacey, although I don't know if he can sing.

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I saw a preview of the movie last night. Overall I think it's a success, and one of the best film adaptations of a stage musical I've seen. But since most movie versions of stage musicals are dreadful, this is not very high praise. Generally, though, I think it's a good movie. Not as good as the stage version, but that's to be expected.

Bill Condon, who wrote the screenplay, and Rob Marshall, the director, have solved the problem of movie actors looking silly when they suddenly burst into song by making all the musical numbers take place in Roxie Hart's imagination. This works, but it does get a little repetitious. The frenetic editing at the beginning of the film, very MTV, worried me, but the movie then settled down to a headache-free pace.

It's been five years since I've seen the show, so I can't comment with great authority about how much was left out or what was added, but I'm very familiar with the CD and noticed that several songs were cut. This didn't bother me except for one song, "Class," which I adore. The Playbill article linked above tells why they had to cut it, and I understand, but still wish that audiences who will never see the stage show could have gotten a chance to hear it. Fortunately, it'll be included in the DVD and CD.

None of the three principals — Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere — can sing or dance well, and this affects their performances in different ways. Zellweger has enough acting to do (and she does it so well) that you don't notice it too much, but Zeta-Jones doesn't look like a dancer (she's a bit, um, fleshy). Gere's singing and dancing made me cringe. He acts well enough, but I would have much preferred to see someone else in the role. dirac, Kevin Spacey was reportedly offered the part but turned it down to do something else, and he would have been a big improvement. (He can sing, but I don't know if he can dance.)

They've made Roxie a more sympathetic character than she is onstage, and the whole film comes across as less cynical. Zellweger balances Roxie's hardness and naiveté very well. But Zeta-Jones's performance didn't work for me. She wasn't "low" enough, too ladylike, too soft in a way. I didn't believe that she'd lived the kind of hard life she describes, and her inflections in the singing didn't have the punch that I've heard from other singers. Watching Christine Baranski, who really can sing and dance, in the small role of Mary Sunshine, it was hard not to think what a better Velma she would have been. Queen Latifah as Mama Morton and John C. Reilly as Amos Hart were both wonderful. Chita Rivera, the original (1975) Velma, can be spotted in a tiny cameo, and at the end of the closing credits there's a reprise of "All That Jazz" by an uncredited singer who sounds a great deal like Bebe Neuwirth, the original Velma of the 1996 Broadway revival.

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It's interesting that you say that Catherine Zeta Jones doesn't sing or dance well, since she began her career in musical thatre.

The sister of a friend of mine was one of the dancers in the film, so I am looking forward to seeing it.

My online researches haven't turned up any credits for the dancers, which I find disappointing to say the least. Also, I gather that none of the dancers were invited to the premiere of the movie.

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It's unfortunate that actors singing in context are regarded as "looking silly." Especially so because there is really no way to have a genuine revival of movie musicals without that convention -- there are only so many showbiz stories out there, and too many "fantasy" or "dream" sequences and your actors will look not only silly but crazy.

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That's really odd, Ari. I keep reading rave reviews about Zeta-Jones and how she outshines Zellweger song and dance wise, but I can't judge for myself cuz I haven't seen it yet. I wish I could have gone to the early screening of it here in Houston, but it was a school night with finals coming up, so that was out of the question...

"Zeta-Jones doesn't look like a dancer (she's a bit, um, fleshy)." A bit harsh, isn't it? :) I know her body can't compare to the ballet dancers of today, but why should it affect an actress in a jazz/musical role?

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Yes, and it might even make Zeta-Jones a little closer to the showgirls of that era, who were well upholstered.

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About Zeta-Jones: I've been thinking about why she seemed out of place in the movie, and I think it's because Chicago is a lean, hard, tough musical, and she was soft, plush, and sensual. The era it's set in may be the twenties, but the work itself is from 1975 . . . and 2002, when the movie was made. It doesn't purport to recreate the era it's set in; none of it was filmed on location and there is no "Chicago in the twenties" thing about it. It's set in the twenties because the play it's based on was written then. But what made the show such a big hit when Encores revived it six years ago was its immediacy — the Simpson trial had just ended and everyone was talking about how prophetic the show had been in 1975. It's a fable about today, not the twenties.

Archaeo, I'd heard that CZJ has a musical theater background, but I didn't see evidence of it here. And bear in mind that this is just my opinion — others may think I'm all wrong. :)

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I never thought of Gwen Verdon as being hard and lean. Rivera, maybe.

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Originally posted by dirac

I never thought of Gwen Verdon as being hard and lean. Rivera, maybe.

Have you seen the 1957 film "Damn Yankees"?

Verdons body is to die for!

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Originally posted by dirac

Yes, and it might even make Zeta-Jones a little closer to the showgirls of that era, who were well upholstered.

Ah, I forgot about that. When Fosse did Cabaret , he wanted his German dancers (all were actually German except for two) to put on weight and leave their armpits unshaved. I read that Marshall tried to create the same affect for this movie- guess it didn't turn out as well (wouldn't have worked for audiences, anyway).:)

Originally posted by Ari

she was soft, plush and sensual.

When I first heard who would be cast in the movie, I was a bit disappointed. CZJ and Zellweger didn't strike me as the "murderess" type; they seemed just as you had described Zeta-Jones as "too ladylike, too soft." Now I'm being optimistic about it.

For some reason, I see the cast of Xena in this. Lucy Lawless as Velma, Renee O'Connor as Roxie, Kevin Smith as Billy...they can all sing, too.

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glebb, I never meant to imply that Verdon was anything less than a dish from head to toe. But she had curves - she wasn't pared to the bone.

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A lean, sexy dish indeed!

I can't get over how good she is, even for today.

Her "Whatever Lola Wants" number is on my list of highly recommended dances to view.

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Movie was fabulous.

Be sure to look for the Rivera cameo, if you blink you might miss it.

I was pleasantly suprised by both Zeta-Jones and Zellweger, though Zellweger is a wee bit on the thin side, and she has the unrefined biting the bottom lip quality during an intense dance routine.

Queen Latifiah is perfect as Big Mamma.

Gere, he was passable, more than I would have expected, but the weakest link in the chain.

The camera angles are a bit choppy, not as blurry as Moulin Rouge, but influenced by it.

Zeta Jones is really fantastic though. She carries her scenes well.

I can't wait to see it again!!!

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I thought it was amazing. What a beautiful transition to the screen; this definitely did not feel like a taping of a stage production. Gere didn't disappoint as much as I thought he would, but I still would have preferred to see someone else in the role (he did do some nice footwork, though). I'm still WOWing over the performances given by both Zellweger and CZJ. They are decent enough dancers- I thought the faultiness in the "I Can't Do it Alone" number was a nice touch. Maybe they don't have the greatest voices in the world (I didn't think Verdon and Rivera did, either), but the sensuality of their singing worked wonders on the audience; the point is they are great performers. John C. Reilly also really shone in this film. *Sigh* what I would give to see Queen Latifah and Zeta-Jones do "Class."

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Old Fashioned, you will be able to see "Class" when the DVD comes out. The number was filmed but not included in the big screen release, but it will appear on the DVD (whether it'll be in sequence or an "extra" I don't know). I also don't know which version of "Class" they're going to include — apparently it was filmed two or three different ways, once with CZJ and QL, and once with QL and RZ.

I also believe that the song will be included in the CD.

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What I actually meant was I wished to see it on the big screen.

I was wondering if I should pre-order the soundtrack on Amazon. If you do, does it arrive at your house the day of the release or is it shipped off the day of the release?

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O-F, I ordered another CD from Amazon last summer and it was shipped on the day of release.

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