Top 10 film performances: Catherine Zeta Jones

Photograph of Catherine Zeta Jones

Last updated: 05 March 2010

Catherine Zeta Jones in Chicago (2002)

Nothing in her previous work quite prepared us for Catherine Zeta Jones' courageous, no holds barred, Oscar-winning Best Supporting Actress performance in Chicago.

Zeta Jones, singing and dancing with revelatory raw energy, plays a brazen streetwise, essentially unlovable woman accused of murder.

Even in a musical leavening dramatic material with fantasy sequences and jaunty numbers softening a little of the reality, her character Velma is the last person we might wish as a potential role model or friend of the film's ostensible heroine Roxie Hart (played by Renée Zellweger, who is adequate but bland as a woman whose seemingly murderous volatility is often masked by a butter-wouldn't-melt exterior).

In Zeta Jones' hardboiled characterisation Velma is an icy manipulator who has few qualms about her past, or her criminality come to that.

She doesn't make the faintest attempt to ingratiate herself with the audience, there isn't a flicker of remorse in Velma and Zeta Jones burrows deep into the character to convey a frightening detachment when she needs to here.

Velma is a character reconciled to the inevitability of cause and effect, violence and punishment, a creature of her environment but a woman still with the wit to reform, to re-shape her fate with a smidgen of luck or, as here, the aid of the fruitful graft employed by Richard Gere as mercenary legal eagle Billy Flynn and helpmate of both Velma and Roxie.

Chicago, directed and choreographed by Rob Marshall, bears the influence - especially in its intensity levels - of the man who planned to direct it, the great filmmaker and choreographer Bob Fosse (All That Jazz and Cabaret).

Zeta Jones ensures that the different components of her performance never conflict with her overall interpretation. It's her efforts, above all else, which make Chicago so much more than a lightweight musical.

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