I had originally intended to see something else today, but I just wasn’t in the mood for it, so rather than subject myself to what may be a fine film and ripping the hell out of it solely because of my own mood swings, I opted instead for a musical. Boy, aren’t I the intelligent one. Bob Fosse has two films on the list, and both are musicals that have been said to largely inspire the likes of 2002’s Chicago, so when I popped in All That Jazz I prepared myself for a lights-and-dance extravaganza to top any burlesque show in Hollywood. I didn’t get that. What I got instead was a smartly made production, with a great crew behind it, that knew its boundaries and how to stay within them to maximize its own potential. Musical be damned with this one (and for several reasons); I still liked it.
The film goes the 42nd Street route, being about the behind-the-scenes production of a stage musical, or rather behind the man behind the production (he also is putting together a movie on the side). It also doubles that film in having the musical numbers be a part of the stage show, so haters of musicals will even be able to get through this one; you never feel like you’re watching a musical, and as stupid and redundant as it sounds, if it wasn’t for the songs, you wouldn’t be – that’s the feel this picture gives off. The film’s script was very well done; there were a good number of times I was struck by a certain line or piece of dialogue that really rang in the air, and they were all throughout the film. I also quickly noticed the film was fantastically edited; it always made the right decision, and it kept me engaged a lot more than I expected to be, especially for a musical. Scheider’s performance probably wouldn’t have been half of what it is without the editing’s amazing work. Speaking of which, I honestly haven’t thought much of Roy Scheider; I’ve only seen him in a couple films, and it’s hard not to think of Jaws when you see him. Well, he easily made me forget about that in this one; he was phenomenal, and he rightly deserved his Academy Award nomination.
All told, this was probably one of the most morose musicals I think I’ve ever seen. I’ll try not to spoil the film too much, but at a certain point, after Scheider’s character Joe Gideon has a second heart attack, the financial backers of the show actually decide it would be better to hedge their bets on Joe dying so they can recoup their investment in the show (and even make a profit of half a million) from the insurance company. You won’t see that sort of morbid material in any other musical, that’s for sure. I haven’t seen Cabaret yet, so I can’t attest to Bob Fosse’s other effort that made the list, and I can’t judge whether this really deserves to be here or not for that same reason, but at the very least I can say that this was very, very watchable for a number of reasons, and it was surprisingly so for what was technically a musical. Whether or not it deserved to be there, I’m glad this did make the list, because I probably would never have seen it otherwise, so for that, I’m appreciative, and I hope you will be too. This does much to avoid the musical stigma, so for that, it deserves a sporting chance from even the most ardent musical hater.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10