Movie Review – Dreamgirls Cuts New Ground

It’s more than a movie. It’s more than a musical. It’s a flawless re-creation of the Tony Award-winning musical sensation that brought audiences to their feet for more than 25 years—and now it’s coming to your neighborhood, and you should not miss a single frame of it. Why? Because it’s unlike any other musical-turned-movie you’ve ever seen, that’s why. Director Bill Condon (who was nominated for an Oscar for Chicago) has put together a seamless cinematic masterpiece that blends dialogue and song into one spellbinding story that follows the roller-coaster career of a trio of sensational singers in the tumultuous sixties and seventies.
Dreamgirls is as much a lesson in U.S. history as it is mesmerizing entertainment. Throughout the chronicle of the lives of “The Dreams” we are reminded of the world events taking place concurrently: the Vietnam War, the Detroit riots, the Nixon administration, and other chaotic disturbances that contributed to a revolution of sorts in our American culture, morals, and law.
Exactly as all that was happening, the music industry was being revolutionized with the arrival of a trio of Afro-American beauties called The Supremes. It is impossible to sit through Dreamgirls without relating to the highs and lows of that sensational Afro-American group, no matter how much the PR twisters would like you to believe that Dreamgirls is not drawn directly from the individual lives of The Supremes.
One might expect the Beyonce Knowles character, Deena, to be the focus of the film, but newcomer Jennifer Hudson in the role of overweight Effie, the high-strung, argumentative lead singer demoted to backup after Deena comes on board, is really the protagonist of Dreamgirls, which makes it an even more interesting tale. Hudson, with her four-octave range, steals the show with her rendition of “You’re Gonna Love Me,” a powerful performance that caused the audience to erupt in sustained applause at the screening I attended. Hudson was even applauded a second time when her name was rolled onscreen during the film credits. It doesn’t take a psychic to predict that Jennifer Hudson has a bright and shining career ahead of her.
Like an acceptance speech at the Oscars, it’s impossible to list everyone who had a hand in creating this movie-making masterpiece. Everyone from the inception of the original story to the grip who turned out the lights after the final shot was in the can contributed greatly to this milestone theatrical experience. To name just a few of the stars in Dreamgirls, there are Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx (Ray), Beyoncé Knowles (Austin Powers in Goldmember), Danny Glover (the Lethal Weapon franchise), newcomer Jennifer Hudson, Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose (Broadway’s Caroline or Change), and Eddie Murphy (The Nutty Professor, Dr. Doolittle).
Having once trod the boards as a backup singer-dancer myself, I can attest to the veracity of the ambitions, hopes, and eccentricities to be found in a closer-than-family group when talents collide with insecurities and emotions lie on the surface, where even the slightest misunderstanding can cause an emotional eruption of volcanic intensity. This point is graphically illustrated as the story examines the Jennifer Hudson role of Effie; enormously talented yet deeply insecure about her standing with The Dreams as well as her love affair with their manager and mentor, played by Jamie Foxx to perfection. Although we feel for Effie when she is forced out due to her obstructive behavior, we see that she is responsible for her own misfortune. It leads her to abject poverty and the lowest low before she resolves to turn her life around. I’ll not reveal here how she does it or what the results are.
Dreamgirls is everything you’re hoping it to be and more. Don’t miss it, and tie a string around your finger until it comes out in DVD format. Because you’re going to want this movie milestone in your collection to be enjoyed many times over.
Taylor Pero is the author of two books about the entertainment industry; a third book, a novel, is currently in submission.

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