Study Guide

Chicago Roxie (Renée Zellweger)

Roxie (Renée Zellweger)

Queen Of Harts

Roxanne "Roxie" Hart: a criminal with heart of gold. Or should we say Hart of gold? Actually, we'll say neither, because we're not even sure she has a heart. What she does have is an insatiable drive for fame, and enough wit to know how manipulate people in order to reach the stardom she thinks she deserves.

Roxie lands in jail because she shoots her male-version-of-a-mistress, Fred Casely. Roxie shoots him for two reasons: he's a jerk, and she realizes he can't make her famous like he said she could. Huh: which do you think is the bigger reason she pulled the trigger?

Once Roxie lands in jail, she sees it as a land of opportunity. It's her shot to earn notoriety, and in Chicago, having your name in the papers is an invaluable form of social currency. So Roxie works it. And by "it," we mean the system and everyone in it, from rival performer Velma Kelly, to her gullible husband Amos, to the justice system and the press.

And she is a sensation. She successfully auctions all her belongs to pay her legal fees, and the public loves her. Even Mama Morton, the prison warden, gets herself a fashionable Roxie 'do. Hey, you can't spell "peroxide" without "Roxie."

Liar Liar Sparkly Sequined Mini-Dress On Fire

Roxie ends up first achieving fame by a twist of fate, really. She doesn't kill Fred Casely to get famous, but she sees that she is becoming famous as a result, so she has to ride that crazy turn. As we said, she has wit, although maybe instead of "wit" we should describe it as, "she feels absolutely no remorse about lying and cheating her way to the top."

She gets Billy Flynn, an attorney with the same (lack of) moral values, and he coaches her, creating a persona for her. How many celebrities do you think act the way they do on TMZ the same way they act at home?

And she succeeds. Roxie is no dummy, and knows how to manipulate with the best of 'em. When Velma gives Roxie a box of caramels, Roxie retorts with "I'm watching my figure. You know, the trial." This shows two things: that Roxie knows how to manipulate public opinion… and how to insult Velma's figure.

But Roxie hides behind her peroxide locks and plays the classic dumb blonde. She tells the press, "I was a real dummy," but she's lying. She wants to seem dumb and innocent, with Billy the marionette pulling the strings.

But she has an uncanny ability to lie to the public and to her husband—like, for example, when she fakes being preggo. She doesn't just tell Amos the non-existent baby is his—she spins a whole story about really wanting it. She makes the non-existent bundle of joy her whole motive for the crime: "I wanted a real home and a child."

Cheap Shot

Sure, Amos is a sitting duck for any kind of nastiness Roxie wants to bring to the table. But Roxie doesn't always pick easy targets. She gets mad at Billy for manipulating her one too many times during the trial, telling him:

"I'm sick of everybody telling me what to do. And you treat me like dirt, you know that? You treat me like I'm some dumb, common criminal."

He delivers quite the burn in response:

"But you are some dumb, common criminal."

We disagree with the "dumb" part, although Roxie doesn't exactly know which battles to pick. One major problem she has is knowing when to keep her big mouth shut. When she lands one successful wisecrack, she thinks she can keep going, not realizing that she could quickly overstay her welcome. All the dramatic musical performances are in Roxie's imagination, so we know she has a high opinion of herself.

However, we do think she's a little justified in thinking that she's the cat's meow.

When Mama tells Roxie, "Killing Fred Casely was your act," Roxie responds, "That's a freak act! And besides, I am better than that." She might be right. Some celebrities are hacks, getting by on their scandal alone. But some actually have talent; they just need the scandal to boost themselves up the ladder, as Mama would say. Roxie falls into the latter category, so we think she might actually have a shot at success once the fame cools off. Maybe.

Even though Roxie doesn't really change throughout the movie—she's still focused on fame, she's still larger than life in her head—at least at the end of the movie, she has a legitimate shot at a career, which is something she totally lacked at the beginning.

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