|ROXIE HART (1942)|
|"Honey, Billy would represent any woman if there was publicity in it."|
|Time: 75 mins.|
Rating: Not Rated
While I can understand Ginger Rogerís need to develop an acting persona away from her longtime onscreen partner Fred Astaire, Iím afraid this flick was not helpful in forwarding that agenda. Her performance as Roxie Hart, a mindless murderess with dreams of stardom, is excruciatingly painful to watch generating neither humor nor compassion. How the stage and film versions of CHICAGO, which are based on this story, could have been created from this dreck is a miracle of talent and ingenuity. The songs and musical numbers in the more recent retellings certainly add a great deal of energy and pizzazz to the proceedings, but whatís most lacking in this version is a compelling character. Going beyond the horrible hairstyle and abominable outfits (which are unflattering and historically inaccurate), Rogers plays Roxie as so childish, dim-witted and self-absorbed by the time she came up for trial I wanted to see her hang, just to stop the madness. What happened to the spunky, sassy, witty blond I had come to know and love?
A part that Renée Zellweger turns into a tour-de-force of cleverness, self-delusion and unrelenting energy, Rogers fritters away with silly, petulant behavior, playing a mere passenger on her road to notoriety. It doesnít help that the film is told in flashback by a reporter (Montgomery), who became enamored by Roxieís supposed charms during her trial. Itís her story, but his point of view, which leaves us with an incomplete and distorted version of her character. Her infamous and fellow publicity-seeking lawyer, Billy Flynn, is played with great humor and boundless energy by Adolphe Menjou. Both his performance, and the gently comical one by Chandler, who plays Roxieís meek and unnecessary husband Amos, save this film from being completely unwatchable. There are a few dance numbers, but since Roxieís not a professional performer, theyíre less than exciting. Thereís no lack of talent here, just an obvious lack of vision and care. Even Rogersís fans will be hard-pressed to enjoy this film.