Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. USA/Germany, 2002. Miramax, Producers Circle, Storyline Entertainment, Kalis Productions GmbH & Co. KG. Screenplay by Bill Condon, based on the musical play by Bob Fosse, Fred Ebb, and the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins. Cinematography by Dion Beebe. Produced by Martin Richards. Music by Maureen Crowe, Fred Ebb, John Kander. Production Design by John Myhre. Costume Design by Colleen Atwood. Film Editing by Martin Walsh. Academy Awards 2002. American Film Institute Awards 2002. Golden Globe Awards 2002.
Your caboose will definitely shimmy and shake for two hours during this excellent musical by first-time director Rob Marshall (who also did the scintillating choreography as well). Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger are two merry murderesses who are both on trial and could possibly face a hanging: Zeta-Jones for killing her sister and husband, Zellweger for killing her boyfriend in a fit of rage. Will both of them get strung up by the neck, or will the daring savvy of lovesick lawyer Richard Gere get them off clear of all charges? The joke in Maureen Dallas Watkin’s original play Roxie Hart (which was based on a true story and eventually made into a film starring Ginger Rogers before becoming a Broadway musical in the seventies) is that the misogynistic society that doesn’t allow women any positions of prominence is also incapable of seeing them pull off any acts of violence, thus letting them get away with murder time and time again. Along the way we are treated to a whole bevy of brilliant musical numbers that all take place inside Zellweger’s stagebound brain (it sounds ludicrous but Bill Condon’s smooth screenplay makes it all work), and both she and Zeta-Jones dance their derrieres off and sing with exceptional skill. Colleen Atwood’s costumes are gorgeous, the dialogue is peppy and the pace never lags for a second. Despite there being six numbers cut from the original play, this film never feels compromised as a musical, nor does it bear the unfortunate habit that musical movies of late have of constantly apologizing for their singing and dancing in an effort to appeal to non-fans of the genre.