There are few movies I have seen this yearand I have seen quite a fewthat can measure the emotional fulfillment of Dreamgirls. The movie is after all about music, the art form, which hand-n-hand with poetry, is supposed to touch the human soul. And this musical, based on the long running Broadway play by the same name, at times caused a tear to fall from this reviews (right) eye.
The music was moving, the performances powerful, the story compelling, the package well delivered. And it was gratifying to finally see a cast of Black Americans make a powerful, meaningful movie about something other than guns, violence, drugs, or the means street of L.A.
Adapted for the silver screen and directed by Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Kinsey), Dreamgirls is a story based loosely on the 1960s Supremes and the Motown sound brought to us by Barry Gordy that launched the careers of so many R&B performers. The story is centered on an all female group called the Dreametteslater the be known as Denna Jones and the Dreamersand consists of Denna Jones, portrayed by Beyonce Knowles (The Pink Panther), Lorrell Robinson, portrayed by Anika Noni Rose (Surviving Christmas), and Effie Melody White, portrayed by newcomer Jennifer Hudson.
The trio gets noticed by one Curtis Taylor Jr., portrayed by Jamie Foxx (Ray, Jarhead, Stealth), a Detroit car salesman who moonlights as a music agent. He convinces established R&B artist James "Thunder" Early, portrayed by Eddie Murphy (48 Hours, Doctor Dolittle, The Nutty Professor) to take them on as his backup singers, and their career (and his) is launched.
While Lorrell starts a reluctant affair with James that is to last eight years, Effie sets her eyes on Curtis as the girls start touring with Early. They are destined to remain Earlys backup singers until one night while performing in an all-white club in Miami Curtis realizes that the audience likes the Dreamettes and he books them at the club. But full figured Effie is demoted from lead singer to backup to Dennas lead in order to give the group a new (television) face.
And so Curtis, who is now sleeping with Denna and Effie, devotes himself to crafting Deena as the lead singer, and changes the name of the group to Denna Jones and the Dreams. At first Effie is talked into going along with the changes, for the good of the family, but her anger and jealousy never subside and she eventually leaves the group, to be replaced by Michelle Morris, portrayed by Sharon Leal (Boston Public).
Denna Jones and the Dreams become and international sensation and Deena marries Curtis. Meanwhile Michelle takes up with Effies brother and principle song-writer for the group C.C., portrayed by Keith Robinson (III), (American Dreams, Over There), and Effie becomes delivers Curtiss child and falls on hard times.
Dreamgirls is a powerful movie despite the musical tag some may apply to it. Bill Condon has managed the bridge the gap between Broadway musical and the silver screen and delivers a stellar movie. And while Ms. Knowles is given star billing on this film, it is Jennifer Hudson, the newcomer, loser of American Idol, who owns this film, at least the female lead. She is in almost every frame, and her very presence demands our attention. And her voice; it not often that we are allowed her hear such emotive beauty. Believe everything you are toldand then someabout Ms. Hudson's rendition of the Jennifer Holliday classic, And I am Telling You I'm Not Going. Hudsons strong emotion-laden performance, brought me to tears, and I am not so easily moved. At the end of her performance the audience actually clapped; yes it was that darned good!
Honorable mention to Ms. Knowles; in the later half of the film she turns in an engaging and convincing performance, and at one points belts out a number of her own that showed surprising vocal range and emotional depth. And can this woman take a picture!
And kudoss and much love too to Eddie Murphy and his outstanding performance, bravo, bravo, Mr. Murphy; he is the best he has ever been as the soul singer always looking for the new sound that will allow him to cross over to the Pop charts, but he quiet makes it. Murphys stage performances were mesmerizing, and this man can sing! Though his character was probably meant to be (late) James Brown, Murphy did not channel the legendary man, but instead brought his own style, charm, and bravo to the role.
Despite what some critics have floated the music for this movie is top notch, and Condon deftly weaves the numbers through the movie so that the drama is not supplanted by enhanced by their presence. I never felt as though I was watching a musical so keen was the interweave.
Jamie Foxx was okay (not outstanding) as the movies only baddie, Danny Glover turns is a masterful performance as Marty Madison, Earlys manager, and to Anika Noni Rose and Sharon Leal as the ever-faithful backup singers. Both of these beautiful women more then held their own in a cast filled with powerful performances.
When the light went up and the credits started to roll no one in the nearly full theater moved. Instead they clapped anew. And that sums up how I feels about Dreamgirls. Can you hear the sound of my clapping, the joyous call of my delighted whistle?
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good Date Movie
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older
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