catherine zeta-jones (i wonder how long before graham jumps on the band wagon with 'chicago' to add to his collection of c.z-j jokes...), renee zellwegger and richard gere were all very good, in the same surprising sort of way as ewan and nicole were in 'moulin rouge'. it's been nominated for lots of oscars, unsurprisingly. all the musicals were back in the 50s and 60s. it seems today that when it's discovered that an actor can (shock! horror!) sing, suddenly they're multi-talented and deserve the oscars. seems just annoyingly naive, really...
i would like to say, thank you, baz luhrman! if not for his bringing 'moulin rouge' to the screen, the movie-musical would be lost to obscurity forever, and, as it is, 'chicago' has seen the potential merchandising and gone ahead with another one. and this one, at least, is already an existing musical, and has, of course, been produced following the success of the west end run with denise van outen. the question always remains, however, of how to get a modern audience to even think twice about seeing a musical, because they have such a stigma attached to them of being from a certain generation...
'chicago' handles this incredibly well. the only problem people seem to have with musicals is that everyone bursts into song at random. see, i've grown up with that and i have no idea why people find it so odd... in the world of a musical, the songs aren't songs, they're thoughts, or monologues, or, god-forbid, conversations. they're just set to music, because music can say a lot more than words ever can... the characters in a musical aren't singing, they're speaking... it just sounds like a song to us. that's my theory anyway. but, i digress, the point is, in 'chicago', it mixes fantasy and reality to get away with 'people bursting into song', and it doesn't seem like a 'musical' because of it... just like 'moulin rouge' used popular songs to grab people's attention. (it's sad that it's come to this, however. i dread how the sunset or phantom movie-musicals are going to fare if they ever get made...)
anyway, the basic plot is this: roxie hart, showgirl-wannabe, is having an affair with fred casey (i think... something like that) and, when he goes against his word and doesn't get her an audition, she ends up shooting him, and going to jail. there, she meets velma kelly, a showgirl who used to be in a double-act with her sister. she's in jail for shooting her sister and her husband because they were having an affair... in fact, all the women in the block have killed their husbands for some reason or another. roxie ends up being defended by billy flynn, chicago's best (and most corrupt, it seems) lawyer in female murder cases, and, in the end, she gets off, and ends up working a double act with velma.
that's in brief ;) you need to see it.
anyway. all of the songs happen on stage, either actually on the stage, or in roxie's head in some fantasy club where all the people she knows, including her husband amos, and the matron, 'mama', tell their stories or reveal their thoughts. this kinda works... and is an excuse for some nicely choreographed dance numbers.
the best line, by far, has to be this, from roxie in one of her future-fantasies of being on the stage, from the beginning of her song: "...so i started fooling around. then, i started screwing around, which is like fooling around, but without dinner..."
and i think my favourite song is 'mr. cellophane', from amos, when he feels like nobody pays attention to him. i don't know why, but it was just a really good song.
oh, and there are some truly gorgeous visuals on the external shots of the city... they're all in rain, dark, or snow, but never pure sunlight, and it works really well... on one of the early ones, of the outside of the onyx club, i literally went "woow..."
basically, everyone must see 'chicago', because it's wonderful! also, it means there'll be more cheapish corsetry around in its wake, which is always a good thing :D