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Dreamgirls the Movie Edit

CreditsEdit

Director: Bill Condon
Producer: Laurence Mark
Screenplay: Bill Condon
Book and Lyrics: Tom Eyen
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover, Jennifer Hudson, Anika Noni Rose, Keith Robinson, Sharon Leal, Hinton Battle
Year Released: 2006

SynopsisEdit

Based on the Tony Award-winning musical “Dreamgirls” and set in the turbulent late 1960s and early '70s, ‘Dreamgirls’ follows the rise of a trio of women -- Effie (Jennifer Hudson), Deena (Beyonce Knowles) and Lorrell (Anika Noni Rose) -- who have formed a promising girl group called The Dreamettes. At a talent competition, they are discovered by an ambitious manager named Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx), who offers them the opportunity of a lifetime: to become the back-up singers for headliner James "Thunder" Early (Eddie Murphy).

Review by Justin DeimenEdit

It’s Oscar time and magic is in the air…or so it might have you believe. And what better way to kick off than to talk about this year’s most Oscar nominated and controversially excluded Best Picture nominee in Bill Condon’s “Dreamgirls”. Several stage to screen reinventions later such as “Chicago”, “Rent” and “The Producers” wherein some were abortions and some were perhaps as decent than anybody could hope for, comes a story modeled closely after the formation of Detroit’s Motown Records. It’s mostly based on how Diana Ross was chosen to be de facto leader and face of The Supremes, effectively relegating its lead singer, the late Florence Ballard to backup vocals and later lead to her ouster from the group. Indeed the mirror reflects Beyonce’s own Destiny’s Child since its inception that includes her own domineering manager, revolving door of talents and a stronger emphasis on marketing than on the music. Not to mention the shocking physical similarity between a younger Diana Ross and Beyonce.

“Dreamgirls” cleaves closely to the contours of the 1982 musical, which had the mercurial Effie White's (Jennifer Hudson) part beefed up for its original Effie in Jennifer Holiday that really made that character thrust itself upon audiences. Effie is big, loud and proud and has a greater character arc than Beyonce’s in Deena Jones where she does her best impression of an empty shell. And aside from their relatively equal screen times, what audiences are bound to notice in Hudson’s effervescent quality and dare I say, her off-screen success story, is a much more interesting and appealing aspect to sink their teeth into. There’s no doubting that her presence is that special something that will be taken away with a smile even when it dawns upon them that she’s more a bona fide theatrical vocal performer than she is a screen actress.

And in another off-screen tale of career revitalisation, perpetual scene-stealer and massive screen presence, Eddie Murphy plays James Thunder Early - the James Brown-esque soulster that takes on the trio early on in their newfound careers. Perhaps little more than an amalgamation of his sketch-show characterisations in the beginning, Murphy lets fly with his once (last seen circa 1985) impressive acting chops late on with a ponderous look of profound sadness that reveals the compromise and ruthlessness of the business they are in. But then the outstanding performances and sublime musical numbers stops mattering when the film gets lost in transition.

Condon sails past the eras as easily as you can say bubblewigs. The dramatic highs and lows resemble a roller coaster ride that never lets any frisson or anticipation to be built. By the time the film rolls on to its peak – the much talked about and much appreciated show-stopping aria built around Effie White - we already know where its priorities lie. It’s not concerned with crafting credible characters with strong emotional cores nor is it anxious to make a substantial point on racial politics in the volatile music industry, but it is important to the film that it awes and entertains through its electrifying compositions and arrangements. Its rat-tat-tat dialogue is a prelude to another song, rife with meaning to be gleaned and a story to tell, no matter how flimsy and clunky it ends up becoming. But more power to Hudson and Murphy who already look like genuine steamrollers in the face of their respective competition come this year's biggies in the Oscars despite the film’s apparent discolouration of African-American music.

I suppose there’s an element of “Dreamgirls” that does feel dated and perhaps even outlandishly offensive in its constant fallback on clichés. And as I must critique films in a contemporary framework and do not want to presumptuously give an opinion from a perspective other than my own, I feel the film possibly runs the risk of trivialising the struggles of black music throughout the ages and disrespects the powerful phenomenon that has laid the groundwork for the current American music scene. It definitely camps it up in favour of any real discourse on its historical groundings and character struggles despite its callously hinted scenes of unfair racialism that never is given the time to stew in its vileness or the real mechanics and impetus behind the payola system. It all serves Condon’s sprinting narrative, to fit in the rags to riches to rags story while not getting his hands dirty in reality but to glitter his film in the glamourised realism of disco and pop.

Movie Rating: 3½ out of 5 stars. (Worth an encore but nothing more)

(Courtesy of www.moviexclusive.com)

Review by dafaceEdit

Dreamgirls had garnered 8 nominations in the upcoming Academy Awards, but somehow missed out on all the main categories like Picture, Director, and the Actor and Actress nominations. Based on the Broadway musical, with new songs added for the movie (3 of which are in the running for Best Song), it tells of a group of singers' meteoric rise in the music industry in the 60s, and on their trials and tribulation which plague any successful singing group.

If the previous years had musical dramas like Ray and Walk the Line taking their fair share of honors, then this year it's expected that Dreamgirls follow the same formula and footsteps, only that instead of actors, this movie boasts two actual singers in its lineup, one an American Idol reject, Jennifer Hudson, and the other, bone-fide singing sensation Beyonce Knowles, who finally is casted in a movie which allowed her to show off her performing chops, rather than just her body in Austin Powers: Goldmember, or a dumb downed singer role in Pink Panther. Reported rivalry between the two? I'm not sure why the fuss, but clearly, Knowles had taken a back seat and the movie actually allowed ample screen time, and singing time, for Hudson to shine.

While Knowles' performance is way polished, and her fans eager for her character to take the limelight, it doesn't happen until almost an hour into the movie, during which she happily sings as one of the dream triplets. Hudson on the other hand, put up a more heartfelt performance in a role which had a little more depth, and I'm of the opinion that her Oscar for supporting actress, is almost signed, sealed and delivered. One thing to note though if you're watching this movie in a theatre equipped with a decent sound system, listen out (!) for Hudson's eardrum busting vocals.

Rounding up the star studded cast are veterans like Danny Glover, and two comedians turned serious performers Eddie Murphy (whose Norbit opens soon), and Jamie Foxx. Murphy stars as Jimmy Early, a successful singer in the small time circuit, who seems contended with his comfort zone, and Foxx, in a meatier role, as Curtis Taylor Jr, a car salesman who, in his discovery of the Dreamers and his wheelings and dealings, built up a music empire of his own. I thought Foxx's character was villainous in a certain way, a man blinded by success and becoming one of his own pet peeves. And yes, everyone in this movie sings. Eddie Murphy's performance is almost always full of energy, but fans of Foxx, don't count on him singing too much though, since he's already done his fair bit with Ray.

Dreamgirls is a musical, so expect characters to break out in a song or two, or at times just a line or two. I didn't expect it to happen the way it did though, and was slightly taken aback when songs get interjected into dialogue, so you'll have to remind yourself it's a musical and it's perfectly normal. Loosely based on the Supremes' rise to fame, it tells of the prejudice and dirty tricks employed to get your way to the fame game. Having a good voice and nifty performances don't just cut it, you'll need a manager who's just as sly and cunning to work your way to the big league.

And at times, talent gives way to how the business want things to be done. In the name of record selling and profits, you give what audiences want, compromising craft if you have to. Otherwise you'll have to be prepared to ship out. And it is during their climb to fame, that each character have to face up to changes, whether they like it or not, including replacing leads, or changing styles. You'll see how fame and fortune can corrupt, how envy and jealousy get in the way of something good, and wonder if being unscrupulous is the only way to survive.

Besides the business aspect, love and relationships also complicate matters, with perceived love triangles and breakups amongst the team causing more harm than good. And a common theme running throughout is just how much you'd love somebody, whether as a person, or a product that you can milk for profits.

Great costumes, great singing, great songs, great stage performances and a star cast, Dreamgirls has all the ingredients to what makes a successful musical movie. One thing to note though, I thought the end credits contained a nice touch with its showing of clips relating to what the crew did for the movie. You don't see that kind of a presentation too often.

(This review first appeared in A Nutshell Review Copyright (C) 2007 A Nutshell Review)

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