Thursday, January 25, 2007

Movie Review: Dreamgirls


In Brief: What's Good

  • Excellent acting & superb singing, especially from Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy.

  • Excellent settings, costumes, wigs, and hair-dos (with a few frightening exceptions).

  • Excellent final scene. I'm big on endings & closure, things coming full circle, etc. This movie does great in that respect.

  • Scenes from the movie and concept drawings for the costumes are intercut with the closing credits. Stay for those.

In Brief: What's Not So Good

  • The dialogue that is occasionally sung instead of spoken temporarily robs the movie of cinematic feel and reminds you that it's a musical adapted for the screen. There's more than enough music in the scenes where characters are performing, recording, or practicing actual songs, so the conversations set to music seem like overkill.

  • A rather obvious cameo from John Lithgow as a slimey movie producer (as well as the guy who plays Jim on The Office as Lithgow's assistant) was a bit jarring. The scene would have been less distracting with a lesser known actor.

  • In the same scene with Lithgow, Beyonce drops the F-bomb, the only time that the F word is uttered in the whole movie. The movie was doing fine without it, and this too, felt out of place.

B+ Story
A Acting
A- Directing
B+ Visuals

Dreamgirls is an epic musical about African-American singers and music producers that spans the 1960's & 1970's. With an all-star cast that has earned the movie several acting nominations and awards, Dreamgirls contains excellent performances from Eddie Murphy, Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, Jennifer Hudson (American Idol), Anika Noni Rose, Sharon Leal (Boston Public), Danny Glover, Keith Robinson, and Hinton Battle.

Based on a Broadway play (that I confess I've never heard of), Dreamgirls centers on the struggles, professional successes, and interpersonal relationships of a female soul trio called the Dreamettes. The movie begins showing the Dreamettes starting at the bottom, and it's probably not revealing too much to say the rest of the movie portrays their gradual rise to stardom. Like many successful musical groups, there are disputes, divisions, and reunions, and the men in these women's lives are the producers, song writers, and fellow performers that work with them.

Of course, this movie has already gained massive attention for the performance of Jennifer Hudson, a virtual unknown actress who is most known for being one of the middle finalists on a season of American Idol. While this movie has an extensive ensemble cast, Hudson's character could probably be considered the central character, and frankly, I thought her singing sounded better than Beyonce.

Beyonce automatically gets hype for having already been a famous singer in real life, and she puts in a good acting performance here too. However, I felt just as good about the performance of Anika Noni Rose, the somewhat overlooked third member of the trio who occasionally serves as the movie's comic relief. Although she wasn't given much focus in the movie, I was also really glad to see Sharon Leal, familiar to some as the beautiful teacher in TV show Boston Public, later join the trio. Another fellow Boston Public alumni, Loretta Devine, also makes a memorable cameo later in the movie (see Fun Facts from Wikipedia below).

I've heard some refer to Jamie Foxx's performance as more understated than usual, but I would say he was just as impressive as Eddie Murphy who has already earned a Golden Globe win and Oscar nomination in the Supporting Actor categories. Danny Glover has a nice but small role, and I also liked the acting & singing of Keith Robinson who played a songwriter in the movie. I could have sworn Robinson was the actor who used to play the young neighbor on the Cosby Show, but according to Internet Movie Database, he actually got his start on Power Rangers (let's all overlook that, shall we; just pretend I didn't mention it).

This is a movie with a ton of heart and soul. With a cast this good and such careful attention given to the writing, music, and visual aspects, it's no wonder this movie is racking up award nominations and wins. In an Oscar season full of dark and violent movies (like The Departed, Children of Men, Pan's Labyrinth, etc.) it's nice to have a movie of equal or greater quality that also happens to be refreshing, uplifting, and appealing to a wider audience.

Oscar Awards

  • Win - Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson

  • Win - Best Sound Mixing

  • Nomination - Best Supporting Actor: Eddie Murphy

  • Nomination - Best Original Song: "Love You, I Do"

  • Nomination - Best Original Song: "Patience"

  • Nomination - Best Original Song: "Listen"

  • Nomination - Best Art Direction

  • Nomination - Best Costumes

Screen Actors Guild Awards

  • Win - Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson

  • Win - Best Supporting Actor: Eddie Murphy

  • Nomination - Best Motion Picture Ensemble Cast

Golden Globe Awards

  • Win - Best Musical or Comedy Motion Picture

  • Win - Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson

  • Win - Best Supporting Actor: Eddie Murphy

  • Nomination - Best Musical or Comedy Lead Actress: Beyonce Knowles

  • Nomination - Best Musical or Comedy Original Song: "Listen"

Fun Fact from Wikipedia

Anika Noni Rose is only 5'2" tall, and most of her co-stars are significantly taller. For much of the movie she had to wear shoes with 4" & 5" heels.

Fun Facts from Wikipedia

Jennifer Hudson is said to have gained 20 pounds to play her role of Effie White. Also, Loretta Devine, who made a cameo in the movie, originated Anika Noni Rose's character of Lorell Robinson in the original Broadway production.

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