Starring-Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson
Scott’s Film Review #792
Reviewed July 20, 2018
Dreamgirls (2006) is a glossy show business style drama with plenty of glitz and glamour. Adapted from the Broadway production of the same name, the story is loosely based on the trials and tribulations of The Supremes, a popular all-girl group from the 1960’s. Despite the film being heavily focused on the drama and tension between the characters, it boasts a wonderful soundtrack and fantastic acting- most notably newcomer Jennifer Hudson, who garnered a surprising Best Supporting Actress Oscar win for her role.
The film tells the story of the evolution of American R&B music during the 1960’s and the 1970’s- the action mainly taking place in Detroit, Michigan, where the genre began. Taking center stage is the incarnation of a girl group called The Dreams, who are controlled by their manipulative record label executive. A womanizer and creep, Curtis Taylor (Jamie Foxx), guides the girls to stardom, but beds both the beautiful Deena (Beyonce) and the talented yet overweight Effie White (Jennifer Hudson). This leads to conflict as Curtis decides that less talented Deena is more marketable and thus should be the central figure of the band.
With a stellar cast in tow, Dreamgirls contains a plethora of talent and a good historical lesson to boot. The main draw in the acting department is the revelation of the talented Jennifer Hudson. Winner of the talent show American Idol, many pooh pooed her film direction, apparently assuming she was a flash in the pan and a “reality television” star. The challenging role of Effie is perfectly suited for Hudson- brazen, pipes for days, and plenty of attitude. Her acting aside, Hudson scorches through an unforgettable rendition of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”, which is assuredly what won her the Oscar.
Otherwise, the supporting cast is worthwhile and impressive is Beyonce in a pivotal role. Surely, the singer/actress faced her share of detractors, along with Hudson, but their chemistry is amazing and she nails all of her songs. Eddie Murphy is a gem in the role mirrored after James Brown, James “Thunder” Early. The role is perfect for Murphy- a far cry from his standard comedic roles that have grown stale over the years. This role rejuvenates the actor’s credibility.
Dreamgirls does at times falter a bit with the drama, almost soap opera-like situations. A triangle develops between Effie, Curtis, and Deena, which leads to tension, bad-blood, cattiness, and melodrama. If the film were a standard drama this would undoubtedly make the film suffer from a tired script or generic writing. But the musical numbers are so riveting that these flaws can be overlooked completely. The ritzy glamour and sparkles that erupt during “Dreamgirls” and “One Night Only” are wonderful fun and the songs are memorable leaving audiences humming along as they dance in the aisles.
In fact, the story is one that has been told many times before. A dream of rising to musical stardom and the many trials and tribulations that go along with these hopes and desires. Comparisons can be made to Chicago (2002), Valley of the Dolls (1967), or even Gypsy (1962), but the mostly black cast and the 1960’s Motown theme is interesting, particularly as the Civil Rights movement of the time was upon us. The film does not invest much time with politics, sticking mainly with the drama and music, which may be a wise move in order to avoid too much of a message theme.
As the film concludes in 1975, Effie is reaffirmed as a meaningful member of The Dreams after her career has tanked and she has wound up on welfare. A paternity twist is also thrown in for good measure, but the film has a clear “happily after ever” vibe to it which softens the film and keeps it more on the PG-13 level instead of going for darker themes.
Dreamgirls (2006) is a musical that is highly memorable for me because it made Jennifer Hudson a household name and confirms the talent and glory that she is rightfully due. In subsequent years the star lost weight, softened her image a bit, and became, well, more generic. But thankfully we have a gorgeous performance to always appreciate her for.