In South Carolina in 1964, African-Americans have just been granted the right to vote, but the reality is that there are still lynchings and the people still need to fight to get to and from the ballot box. Young Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning) is a white girl who is walking her housekeeper Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson) to vote. Her mother is dead and her father is abusive. When Rosaleen is attacked and put into hospital, Lily fears the worst for her. She breaks her out of hospital and they escape, managing to get to another town and finding a home with beekeeper and local businesswoman August Boatwright (Queen Latifah). There are good times and bad times, and the bad times are pretty darned awful.
It’s a very challenging film, and very good. Though, one of my favourite films (that I am scared to revisit in case it is not as wonderful as I remember) is The Colour Purple, and it is amazing. I guess what I really didn’t like in this film is that the Lily character is just awful; precocious, condescending and just awful. Yes, I still felt bad when bad things happened to her, but I just didn’t like her, and some of the decisions she made were clearly so stupid, yet she went and did them anyhow. Annoying.
What happens when you get a whole bunch of stars together to tell a whole bunch of stories? Valentine’s Day. And much as I expected to dislike it, being very Hollywood and corny… I loved it. I loved the romance, I loved the slightly unexpected twists (and that many of the twists were not that unexpected), it was just great.
I’m not going to try to recount the plots – there were just so many intertwining. All you need to know is that in LA on this particular Valentine’s Day, heaps of people interact. Some get together, some don’t, some break up, some rekindle their love. It’s gentle and fun and has a huge cast. If you get sick of the stories, you can spend some time trying to name everyone in the film. This is a great film to know for playing 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) wants to be on the stage, but is in a tedious life married to a boring mechanic, Amos (John C Reilly). When she discovers the man she is having an affair with is not only unable to get her an audition, but is going to leave her, she shoots him and is quickly arrested for murder. She joins Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a famous singer and dancer who killed her husband and sister after she caught them in bed together. The two use Mama Morton (Queen Latifah) to obtain the legal services of Billy Flynn (Richard Gere) to set them free. And all this whilst singing and dancing.
I have no idea if this is a good film or not. It certainly is a very interesting interpretation of a stage show to film, with it flowing from cabaret performances in a club to scenes of reality. What I know is the music is fabulous. The other thing is that we did Chicago as a high-school performance long before the recent stage (and then film) revival and I still know pretty much every word of every song. It was just as well that there was no one home at my place and my neighbours were away, because I watched the film singing at the top of my lungs. And no one needs to hear that.
Chicago won Oscar for Best Picture, Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Catherine Zeta-Jones), Best Art Direction – Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing and Best Sound. Chicago was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Renee Zellweger), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (John C. Reilly), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Queen Latifah), Best Director (Rob Marshall), Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (Bill Condon), Best Cinematography and Best Music, Original Song (I Move On).