All That Jazz


Comedy / Drama / Music / Musical

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 86%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 86%
IMDb Rating 7.8 10 22852


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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by TOMASBBloodhound 9 / 10

A self-indictment.

All that Jazz is a great film that almost seems to have dropped off the radar screen of classic musicals. The film gives us the account of a choreographer named Joe Gideon (Scheider) whose relentless way of living drives him straight into the grave. The character is based on the real life of director Bob Fosse who suffered the same fate in 1987. Gideon is a womanizing, drug abusing, perfectionist who begins each morning with the same routine. He pops a few pills, takes some Alka-Seltzer, jumps in the shower (sometimes with a cigarette in his mouth!), and declares it's "showtime" after giving himself one last look in the mirror. When we meet him, he's currently putting the finishing touches on a film he's just directed, and he's beginning work on a new Broadway musical. The man looks absolutely exhausted. He's always smoking. He seems on the brink of collapse from angina, and he frequently grasps his left arm apparently in an effort to determine if his heart is still beating or not.

The main idea behind this film is that Gideon knows he's dying. The life he has lived has assured him only a brief stay on this earth. As the film plays out, we see how Gideon comes to grips with his impending fate. His final journey is often touching; sometimes joyful. But above all, it is compelling and once it's over, you'll probably wish Gideon had hung on longer. He seemed to have so much to live for. Even the people around him who he's hurt in life (his ex-wife and current girlfriend, for example) still are a big part of his life. He has a wonderful daughter who he's just getting to know, as well. Without him around, there would certainly be an enormous void left for all of the central characters in this film. We see him confess his life's sins to Jessica Lange who plays an angel waiting to usher him into the afterlife once he finally succumbs to his medical problems. The closer the two of them get, the closer he is to the grave.

Fosse's direction is exceptional. His musical numbers (particularly Airotica) are top-drawer as you'd expect them to be. And he's never afraid to shock you with his camera-work. At one point we get an up-close and personal look at Gideon's heart surgery, and that's a bit grotesque for a musical. Remember this is the same director that showed us Dorothy Stratton's face getting blown off with a shotgun in Star 80.

Fosse also understandably knows these characters better that they know themselves. By the end of the film, you really know Joe Gideon, and you feel like you've lived part of his life. Fosse saw the same fate coming to himself, and indeed it found him in 1987. We often wish exceptional individuals would stick around longer, but then again it's the way they live that makes them so exceptional.

This film is highly recommended. 9 of 10 stars.

The Hound.

Reviewed by ray-280 10 / 10

Beyond Brilliant (and I hate musicals!)

Read my review of "Newsies" if you want my opinion of the musical genre. People just don't break into song-and-dance numbers in the course of their daily lives. Unless they are Bob Fosse, when suddenly doing so not only makes sense, but makes you wonder how we can go through life NOT singing and dancing.

What this movie is, is simple: Bob Fosse unveiling his life, his knowledge, and a detailed explanation of his creative process, for future generations to evolve. This film is part biography, part self-exploration, and part legacy. It is the "legacy" part that is overlooked by almost everyone. If you ever dreamed of becoming a choreographer, this is the ideal place to start, because you'll watch, over and over, as Joe Gideon (Roy Schieder as the fictionalized Fosse) puts his stamp on a dance number, a process so unique and brilliant that it could easily be classified as its own form of dance rather than a subset of modern dance. If three words could sum up Fosse's style of choreography it would be "make it sexier." Then make it even sexier. Then, when you're done, you need to make it even sexier. The "Airotica" number exemplifies this, and served as the inspiration for Paula Abdul's "Cold Hearted" video.

The movie brings Fosse's inner circle and personal life to the screen, pulling absolutely no punches. Some call this film a form of narcissism, but it's hard to see how a man looking for self-given glory would portray himself falling apart physically and personally, the years obviously having taken a toll, as well as the emotional baggage that comes with abandoning family life (and a brilliantly played daughter by Erzsebet Foldi, in what would be her only film before she retired) for a girlfriend with some side dishes for variety. The women hate Gideon's infidelity, but love the man so dearly they know not to question or challenge it.

Throughout the film, we are treated to vignettes that comprise the mosaic that is the life of Fosse. Metaphors abound, and the music blends effortlessly into a film that can make two hours seem like two minutes. This is not a film that could have been written and will not be enjoyed by those of simple intellects. So much of the plot exists in the abstract, and it is up to the viewer to find what is often an incredibly subtle symbolism. Simply put, this is a well-constructed film. Fosse's ex-wife and dance protégé, Ann Reinking, auditioned for (!) and won the part based on her, while the supporting cast includes many solid names, even a young John Lithgow as Lucas. Fosse's daughter makes a cameo in the film, as does the film editor. The comedian who appears as the subject of a movie is based on Lenny, a previous Fosse film.

Joe Gideon is what everyone should be no matter what they do: someone who doesn't copy others, but develops their own vision and then methodically, sometimes maniacally, makes it happen. He lives in the moment, and squeezes everything he can out of each moment. This is evidenced by Gideon's brilliant work, but also by his rapidly deteriorating health caused by living in the party moments as well as the serious ones.

The ending number is for the ages, putting a spin on the sappy endings that musicals are famous for.

Your life is lacking until you have seen this film. That it did not win the Best Picture Oscar for its year was an absolute tragedy. It is one of the five best films of all time.

Reviewed by evanston_dad 9 / 10

Razzle Dazzle 'Em

A never less than fascinating, barely fictionalized biopic about legendary choreographer and director Bob Fosse. The character in the movie is named Joe Gideon, but come on: he's in the middle of choreographing and directing a stage musical that looks an awful lot like "Chicago," and he's in post-production on a film that looks an awful lot like "Lenny." I think we all know who this movie is REALLY about.

It's self indulgent to be sure, and a bit of a mess overall, but it's just so damned accomplished in every way that it's impossible not to sit back and enjoy the ride, however destructive that ride might be. And boy is it destructive. You're going to feel like you need to go on a rigorous exercise regimen and a system-cleansing diet after watching the Fosse stand-in in this film abuse himself to death. This movie will quickly disabuse you of any illusions about the glamour of the show business world.

Roy Scheider gives the performance of his career as Joe Gideon. My other favorite performance came from Leland Palmer as Gideon's long-suffering ex-wife (and presumably Gwen Verdon stand in). These two make poignantly obvious what made them click in the first place while at the same time conveying perfectly why they can't live with one another. Ann Reinking plays Ann Reinking, one-time girlfriend to Fosse who does the same honors in the movie. And before anyone knew who she was, Jessica Lange played a very ravishing angel of death.

"All That Jazz" isn't as tight or as powerful as Fosse's previous musical, "Cabaret," but that's largely because it's so much more insular as a movie. It's really about the demons plaguing one man, and it doesn't have any broader context than that. Whether or not you like it will depend heavily on how fascinating you find the world of New York theatre, and how much you care about Joe Gideon in the first place. To his credit, Scheider is able to make Gideon an entirely sympathetic, if not entirely likable, character.

And if there aren't any musical numbers to rival the razzle dazzle of the "Mein Herr" or "Money, Money" numbers from "Cabaret," there are still a fair share of showstoppers in "Jazz," notably a cute little duet for Reinking and the girl that plays Gideon's daughter, and the rousing opening number, in which a stage full of Broadway hopefuls audition for a show in a whirl of quick edits set to the song "On Broadway." A fantastic, mesmerizing film.

Grade: A

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