My Review of ‘All That Jazz’ (1979)

This review is being posted as part of the 2017 Medicine in the Movies Blogathon hosted by Charlene’s (Mostly) Classic Movie Reviews.

While this film might not appear to be one about the medical profession (at least, at first glance), it is quite obviously one that explores the themes of life and death.

All That Jazz is a musical based loosely on the life of Bob Fosse, particularly the manic lifestyle he maintained while editing the film Lenny and (simultaneously) staging Chicago on Broadway.

Bob Fosse is played by the character Joe Gideon (who is himself played by Roy Scheider), who’s putting on a musical and cutting a film about a comedian, while sleeping with one the dancers he hired, stringing his girlfriend along, trading barbed comments with his ex-wife, and trying to squeeze in time to see his (ever-so-precocious show-biz) daughter. He manages to keep from keeling over up the pace through a cocktail of chain-smoked cigarettes, Alka-Seltzer, Dexedrine, and Visine. Gideon greets every day with the following catch-phrase: “It’s showtime, folks!”

Throughout the film, we see flashbacks to Gideon’s youth and the occasional flirtation with a woman in white (the Angel of Death, as played by Jessica Lange). Not exactly the most subtle way to show that Fosse Gideon is flirting with death. However, their scenes crackle with energy. Lange handles the small, but very significant role, with a delightful combination of playfulness and sensuality. You could say that Gideon not only flirts with death, but spars with it. Almost in the manner of a drug-addicted, over-sexed Don Quixote.

Ah, but here’s the interesting part. At one point (after Gideon has suffered a “severe attack of angina”), he is hospitalized, but continues to party on. And one of the doctors says, basically, “This man doesn’t seem to care if he lives or dies.”

Here’s where the medical theme comes in. Who is the doctor to tell Gideon how he should live? Is Gideon really a man who doesn’t care about dying or is he one trying desperately to live to the max?

We know that doctors are bound by the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm.” But can a doctor force a patient to live a less flamboyant life, if that patient doesn’t want to? Of course not.

Finally, is Gideon a man who wants to live on his own terms or one who simply can’t accept his own mortality? I’d say it’s the latter. Gideon is, essentially, a teenager trapped in a middle-aged man’s body. However, Gideon ultimately is forced to confront the five stages of grief that the comedian in his film repeats throughout. And with that, let’s just say that the film reaches a grand finale—and so does Gideon.

If you’re one of the few people who don’t know the ending and don’t want to, do not watch this video of the final scene! 🙂

This movie is a must-see for film lovers. Even if you don’t usually watch musicals, this one is a surreal treat, not unlike a musical version of 81/2!

This entry was posted in Autobiographical, Movie Reviews, Musicals, Surreal and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to My Review of ‘All That Jazz’ (1979)

  1. Saskia Penn says:

    I love this film! I find it so interesting that this was the first time an open heart surgery was actually shown in a film and people were very shocked at the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review. It has been ages since I last saw this film, time to change that I think. Roy Scheider was excellent in this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. dbmoviesblog says:

    Never watched it, but you have piqued my interest. Fantastic post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Debbi says:

    Thanks so much for the comments! 🙂 Just got back into town and have been offline until now. This is definitely one of my favorite films.


  5. This is definitely one of my favorite movie musicals, and your review did it full justice.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Michael eddy says:

    Great review. Not sure I’d refer to this movie as a “musical” in the purest sense of the word. Does it have musical numbers? Absolutely. Some – like the rest of the movie – are surreal. Some – like the spontaneous dance number between girlfriend and daughter for Gideon’s pleasure and amusement are spontaneous are clever but function more to show off the talents of the actor/dancers than to move the plot forward. It is intense and a very unique take on the genius and driven nature of Bob Fosse – possibly a tad self serving in that sense – almost like he makes the audience privy to his personal demons. I saw this at a screening for WGA members and I thought it was terrific – but I still remember another member – walking out after the movie ended – and making some really nasty remarks about Fosse. It was this incident (and maybe a few others) that prompted the Guild to issue an edict to its members that at subsequent screenings – the audience was to remain in their seats until the closing credits had finished, and to refrain from making similar comments aloud.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Such an excellent film, and it definitely addresses one’s choices in life’s trajectory as well as exploring the concept of death. These are central aspects to medicine but also life itself, as you addressed so well. Thanks for contributing to the blogathon!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Day 3 Recap – Medicine in the Movies Blogathon! | Charlene's (Mostly) Classic Movie Reviews

  9. I didn’t watch the last video – thanks for the heads up – because I’m finally going to track down this film. I have NEVER seen it, and why that is I don’t know.

    Also, I think the phrase, “It’s showtime, folks!” is a perfect way to start the day. I’m going to do that from now on. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debbi says:

      Wise move on your part. This movie is awesome! 🙂

      Have you ever seen “Better Call Saul”? Great show! Good use of the catch phrase. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Debbi says:

      It’s a fantastic show! That and “Breaking Bad”!


      • Michael eddy says:

        I was going to ask Silver Screenings if he or she had ever seen BREAKING BAD and advise that if not – to plow through the 7 seasons of that series before even bothering to take on Better Call Saul – now in the midst of season 3.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Michael eddy says:

      To be clear, Bob Fosse – who was around show business his whole life – as a dancer, choreographer, actor and director – did not coin the phrase “It’s showtime” – but he put it to splendid ironic use in “All That Jazz’ using it to cap off the character’s daily regimen of popping pills to get himself “up” in the morning.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Debbi says:

      Excellent advice! It makes the viewing experience that much better! 🙂


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