‘All That Jazz’ – essay

An essay or response I wrote for film class on the movie ‘All That Jazz’ starring Roy Scheider.

All That Jazz

All That Jazz is the first movie of the semester that I had previously seen though this is the first time I
have actually sat through it the entire way. Overall the movie wasn’t bad. I like Roy Scheider as an actor and the movie had a good soundtrack to it. Bob Fosse used a few (how I like to refer to them) movie “tricks” to help get the story cross. The tricks themselves helped movie the story along and allowed the movie to be a reasonable length. Much like Greek tragedies used the chorus to narrate much of the action so as to not need to re-enactment. One of the tricks Fosse used was the appearance of the angel of death to guide the main character. Being the angel of death I would expect her to try and convince the main character, Joe Gideon, that dying was the best thing for him and to continue on his self destructive path. However she did not do that, instead she seemed to play the devil’s advocate to Gideon. Perplexed why he continued to live this way even though he knew it would kill him. Sort of like her not judging but more like trying to understand his thinking. Of course the AOD was played by a beautiful woman and men are more
likely to open up and seek the approval of beautiful woman than another persons’.  The other trick was using Ben Vereen as a variety show host introducing characters from the movie as guests of his own show. Vereen would not only introduce but offer opinions> about that particular person’s character.  This I found annoying until the last sequence involving Vereen which was a dance number centered on Gideon saying good-bye to the people closest to him. I can’t
remember the song but I like its representation here.

All That Jazz is I guess a biographical topic of its director Bob Fosse. Roy Shieder plays Broadway producer Joe Gideon. Gideon is a lying, sexist; drug addicted self destructive, arrogant asshole type who uses people. He choreographs Broadway musicals as well as producing movies. We meet Gideon only weeks before his death. At this point the decisions he’s made can’t be reversed and he will die no matter what. Gideon is casting a new musical and picks performers based on talent except for one, Victoria, who he wants to sleep with. In his position he controls the careers of many dancers and delights in using this position to solicit sex. He is divorced with a daughter, has a girlfriend whom he cheats on at will. The musical is a pretty racy number that offends the producers whose only concern is perception and ticket sales. We are shown a couple of numbers during the movie, they aren’t bad but the music and dancing of the musical themselves is not important. The musical is important because it shows us Gideon at his best. I won’t say worst because even with his many character flaws, Gideon is who is and you won’t get the best of him without the other “harder” parts of his personality. Not to justify his behavior but only to say to can’t have one without the other. Gideon is brilliant. He’s the top at his profession and a very driven intense man. These parts of his personality cause him to drink and do drugs too much and also not to sleep or rest. They also cause him to not listen to anyone else and to be late all the time. Gideon is late because he is a total perfectionist. Nothing wrong with that of course but he pays no attention to anyone else and how these delays cost them. The movie he is editing is due for release but he keeps cutting it so it can’t be. Costs overrun, the production staff has new projects to move on to but can’t because this project isn’t finished. Gideon has no regard for anyone but himself. Yes the movie shouldn’t be released until it is the best possible movie it can be but for crying out loud it’s a documentary of a comedian already! Also late is the musical. Really late and really over budget, like hundreds of thousands of dollars over budget. Not concerned is Gideon. It’s not his money and he has important things to do like have sex and do drugs. The movie goes along with scenes of /Gideon having sex, doing drugs, being rude to people. The scenes that worked best for me were the scenes between Gideon and his daughter. Any emotion of caring Gideon may have for another person comes through when he interacts with his daughter. This doesn’t happen much of course, no room for kids in the Gideon lifestyle, but when they do they work. The daughter loves her father and wants more from him. She doesn’t understand why this won’t happen; she’s a child and may not yet understand the adult world.

Only two times in the movie did I care for Gideon. When he was with his daughter and the end scene when he was saying good-bye as he lay dying. I’m writing off the latter as being more sentiment than actual caring for Gideon. However I could see why, with a daughter that loved him that much, he would continue on this path. Is he so narcissistic that he won’t consider his on daughter’s feelings? He is not afraid I don’t think. Full time fatherhood just doesn’t fit the life. Even had he and her mother stayed married I don’t believe it would’ve help the relationship.
Gideon works around the clock and doesn’t have time for that. He does naturally, the world will survive waiting for the new musical, but he won’t. Can’t be a big shot to the world by staying at home with the kid. No one would have ever heard of Joe Gideon or his work.

A subplot of the movie involves the producers. Producers are the people who pay for all the production costs of the musicals and so are more worried about costs and schedule than art. Because they are so behind schedule and over budget decisions need to be made. If they end production now they will lose so much. Is it a bearable amount or should they continue to try and recoup the costs? If they continue on they will end up spending so much and will have to sell so many tickets to break even. Will the show be good enough to last long enough to turn a profit? Those are the questions that need answered. Ironically Gideon may be able to answer all of them. In his mind this is the best work he has ever done and should be seen through to the end. He ignores the pleas to speed things up and cut expenses here and there. Joe Gideon’s arrogance and narcissism knows what is best for all. But there is another way out. If he dies and
the show has to be scrapped the insurance company will pay out a two million dollar policy. The insurance agent says this like they’d be scrapping a car or closing a store or something trivial. In my opinion the agent appeared to be suggesting the producers are better off with Gideon dead. They tacitly agree but no discussion of murder takes place. I believe this is a part of the movie to show viewers how the “money people” ruin art. Maybe they do and definitely they
do. But unless Gideon and others want to put on free shows in the park they are stuck relying on people to fund their artistry and in turn follow the rules set down by the money people. I did not like them but that had more to do with me not liking uptight rich people or any of these wealthy people who believe money comes first. I also didn’t like them because they tried to censor Gideon. A racy scene had to be cut so the musical wouldn’t be so shocking to people. Well if you are going to hire someone to do work for you hire them and the experience and talent they bring with them. If you want dull boring and safe hire Mr. Dull Boring and Safe. Don’t get Joe Gideon and try to restrain him. It
will only make for bad Joe Gideon and you want GOOD Joe Gideon.

One scene I expected to get but didn’t was Gideon’s daughter trying to save her father from himself. Pleading with Gideon change his ways because she doesn’t want to lose her father. Gideon’s ex-wife also doesn’t try this and for this I am glad. The do it for the kid’s mantra we hear gets tiring. Not everything should be about the kids.

All in all I liked the movie. I like good music and dance numbers in movies and this movie had enough of them. I’m not sure if Fosse wanted me to sympathize with Gideon or what he was going through. I don’t simply because he does it too himself while showing no regard for the people who count on him.

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