Archive | 12:15 am

And You, You’re Gonna Love This

14 Dec

Can Dreamgirls really live up to the hype? I mean, you can’t shake a stick these days without seeing a story (like the one I wrote about Jennifer Hudson) or seeing a commercial or hearing a song or something related to the movie. But the good news is that the hype is justified: Dreamgirls is one of the best times you will have at the movies this year.

A big, slick, well-orchestrated Hollywood machine (and that’s really the only word you can use for it), Dreamgirls tells the story of a 1960s Supremes-like girl group and how their rise to great fame takes its toll on the girls’ friendship. Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know that the movie is based on a Broadway show, and that Beyonce plays the Diana Ross role (and though she tries to deny it, there’s no escaping the comparison), Jamie Foxx is the villainous Berry Gordy-type, and Eddie Murphy is the James Brown-esque soul singer who the girls initially attach their fortunes to. The film is substantial and not lightweight, with a strong statement about what really makes a star.

Not surprisingly, while the acting across the board is good, the film belongs to the women. Hudson’s performance of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” is already the stuff of legend, and for good reason. It’s a fierce, powerful performance — both vocally and visually — and like the words Hudson’s character is singing, Hudson is daring you not to love her. When she finished, a guy behind me said, “She turned it out!” and most folks burst into applause. The sound system where I saw the movie was less-than-optimal, but Hudson’s performance here is so towering that it overcame the technical issues. She’ll earn the Oscar for that scene alone. And Beyonce’s “Listen” turned me into a serious fan. The song was written for the film, and she just blows the roof off with her passionate performance of it.

To be honest, though, the film and show do a real disservice to both women, especially Hudson. She has a few good songs (I also really like “Love You I Do,” another song written just for the movie), but after her big number halfway through, Hudson basically disappears. Suddenly the movie is all about Beyonce and Hudson is stuck in the background, right when she’s upstaged everyone else on screen. Beyonce, too, is basically nice to look at and she generally holds her own acting-wise, but her only really good moment comes near the end when she’s belting that song. I wish the show/movie’s creators had seized the momentum of Hudson’s performance better and gave Beyonce more chances to blow us away. Instead, both get these huge showstopping moments that make the rest of their performance seem less impressive.

But no matter. As a whole, Dreamgirls is a great, wholly entertaining movie. I was tapping my feet, holding back applause, and smiling through most of the film. When the lights came up, I started to make plans to see it again as soon as I could, in a theater with better sound. Right now, I can’t wait. Dreamgirls gets an A–.

Update, 12/31: I’ve now seen this movie twice and I don’t know if it was the better presentation quality or that I knew what to expect, but I have to say, unsurprisingly, I enjoyed Dreamgirls much more the second time. Jennifer Hudson’s performance came off much better to me — it didn’t seem as lacking in the second half — and even Beyonce was impressive throughout. This second time I appreciated stuff I didn’t appreciate as much the first time, like Eddie Murphy’s performance; it’s also really good. Yes, the movie is a bit lopsided, with all the good music in the first half and all the serious drama in the second, but it doesn’t drag, and this time I felt more invested in the plot so it came off as a better movie. And let me just say this: if you’re going to see Dreamgirls, see it the way it’s meant to be seen, on a big screen with big, clear sound. It makes all the difference. I’d see it again. And again. I really like this movie.

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