If I would make a ranking of my favourite Best Picture winners, this one would certainly be in the Top 10. It might be the winner I have seen more often than any other and it still feels as fresh, funny and energetic as it did when I saw it in a cinema. Chicago tells the story of two murderesses that battle each other for freedom and fame in Chicago during the 1920s.
A lot of the credit for Chicago must go to Rob Marshall who creates some of the most spectacular musical numbers ever seen. The idea of letting the scenes take place in Roxie’s fantasy was a brilliant idea that allows to create some incredibly dance numbers while the movie also finds some dark and disturbing moments in the ‘realistic’ parts of the story. From the cinematography to the editing and the choreography, Chicago is a pure fest for the eyes (and ears).
Chicago also has the benefit of being a musical where the story does not only seem of secondary importance – instead it makes some truly brilliant, amusing and shocking observations about the media and public opinion. When Roxie shouts to the audience at the end that she and Velma could not have done it without them it’s probably one of the most unmasking moments in the story – it shows how they manipulated the media and how the media manipulated the people and how the people manipulated the juridical system, how easy fame can be achieved and how easy it can be taken away again. The story may be set in the 20s but it works just as well today when people achieve fame for no obvious reasons until they disappear again. And when the only innocent inmate gets executed because nobody understands her (literally) and she isn’t able to play the game with the others, it becomes very clear how dark Chicago actually is underneath all the glitter and light.
Chicago manages to be entertaining, provoking, funny, bright, dark, clever, silly and sharp. Mixed with wonderful songs, the result is one of the most stirring movie musicals ever.