Dreamgirls


Directed by: Bill Condon
Written by:Bill Condon
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover, Anika Noni Rose, Keith Robinson, Jennifer Hudson, Sharon Leal
Released: January 18, 2007
Grade: B+

Is this an impeccably well put together film?  Yes.  Is it an interesting film?  No.  Perhaps I’ve been jaded by the hype.  It’s been touted as the Oscar front-runner for almost a year.  So whilst it deserves an above average grading (B+), I can’t help but focus on my feeling of disappointment.  I expected more.

Before it became a movie, Dreamgirls was a Broadway musical.  Directed by the late Michael Bennett, it debuted in 1981 and went on to win 6 Tony Awards.  Academy Award winning writer Bill Condon (Gods And Monsters) has long been a fan of the show.  After DreamWorks and Paramount secured the rights to the story, Condon adapted it for the big screen.  Once you’ve seen it, you’ll understand the effort and passion that Condon has put into his pet project.

The story revolves around three African-American singers trying to break into the music business in the late 1960s.  They are known as The Dreamettes and consist of Effie (Hudson), Deena (Knowles) and Lorrell (Rose).  Their chance arrives when an ex-car salesman, Curtis (Foxx), hears their tune and wants to act as the group’s agent.  He lands their first major gig, as a support act for popular artist James Early (Murphy), and the ball is rolling…

The film then moves into the 1970s.  The Dreamettes (now known as The Dreams) make it to the big time but they also learn how ruthless the music industry can be.  Friendships are betrayed and relationships are shattered.  If you think it’s hard getting to the top, wait until you see how hard it is to stay there!

I wasn’t around in the era when great Hollywood musicals were produced every year.  I am a fan however of modern day musicals such as Chicago and Moulin Rouge.  I struggled to enjoy Dreamgirls as I didn’t find the songs particularly memorable.  I’ve also seen this kind of story before (not done as a musical of course) and it didn’t offer any new insight.  If I was around in the 1980s and saw the original stage version, perhaps I’d see it differently.

As difficult as it was to get excited about, I do have to praise writer-director Bill Condon.  With pin-point editing, dazzling lighting and awesome cinematography, he’s made the film look as good it as possibly could.  He uses the benefits of cinema (such as having multiple takes) and creates a visual feast that could not be achieved on stage.

I never thought I’d say this but an American Idol contestant is a chance at winning an Academy Award.  In her first cinematic role, Jennifer Hudson plays Effie (Hudson) and does a terrific job.  She is the pick of the cast and the highlight of the film for me was watching her fervently sing “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”.  Hudson is currently the Oscar front runner for best supporting actress.  Eddie Murphy and Danny Glover are also great in what must be their best roles in years.

Yes, there’s a lot to like about Dreamgirls but this wasn’t the memorable musical experience I anticipated.