i went to see dreamgirls
with every intention of enthusiastically detesting it. i saw it back in december when it had just come out and they were selling it like the next sound of music
or something and it was going to sweep the oscars and i just knew i was going to hate it. and i was excited. i like hating things. it is fun. i mean it stars jamie foxx, one of the most annoying celebrity whores in hollywood, beyonce knowles, a woman whose ego eclipses any music she might produce no matter how good, jennifer hudson, american idol reject and master of the art of scream-singing, and eddie murphy, quite possibly the most detestable actor working today, loathsome threefold for his horrid factory-produced "comedies," his mystifying arrogance, and his severe misogynism. plus i had never been that much of a fan of the musical to begin with, other than its star jennifer holliday and SHE was barred from participating in any way with the movie and spoke out publicly against it. so this was definitely a movie custom built for me to hate.
but i didn't. it definitely wasn't the best movie i have seen all year, and it certainly shouldn't have been considered for a best picture oscar, but it was a fun, thoughtless, easy to watch, chick flick. i can definitely see watching this movie over and over again. it is mindlessly happy. for a movie which deals with drug deaths, poverty and industry malfeasance as its major themes, bill condon made a movie that doesn't focus on any of that, just happy songs, pretty costumes, beautifully made up women and inexplicably happy endings. this is a good movie and belongs up there with a league of their own
, center stage
, save the last dance
, and similar cheerful femme-pics.
here is what is good about the movie: first of all, for the above stated reasons, it is a fun movie to watch. the art direction, costuming and makeup are very pretty. the songs, albeit mostly mindnumbing, are performed rousingly in a way that sort of makes you want to get up and shout hallelujah! condon was smart in some ways to focus more on the best performers in dreamgirls
, rather than the biggest roles. eddie murphy is excellent as the sleezy jimmy early. and jennifer hudson gives a strong turn in her backup singer role as well. both of these performances should have been supporting, but they were made central in order to eclipse the weaknesses of jamie foxx and especially beyonce, who shows that she has a nice voice, but is simply not an actress. beyonce really only had a dozen or so lines in the whole movie and sings only one song (a weak, forgettable one), so you don't focus much on her weakness. murphy, hudson, and anika noni rose, the secondary characters thankfully take the central roles,
here is what is bad about the movie: this character choice is the only thing that condon does well as a director. as far as i am concerned, direction, except for the truly outstanding or unique (e.g. lars von trier) is something i rarely notice unless it is bad. this was the case with dreamgirls
. condon's direction, i feel, was simply terrible. as a matter of fact, in a lot of ways, this movie represents the sheer absence of direction. condon made this movie like one might film a high school christmas pageant. shot one: jennifer hudson singing a song on stage. then, some interstitial banter between beyonce and jamie foxx in an office. shot two: eddie murphy singing a song on stage. then, more interstitial banter. the entire movie is like this. i really think that anyone could have done a better job. it is the most uncreative and dull direction of an otherwise could-be exciting story. this is where i think the movie failed critically and why it couldn't be a contender in major oscar races.
here is what i can't decide is good or bad about the movie: the story itself is the biography of the supremes. the three singers are taken over by an unscrupulous manager who squeezes the talented, but difficult to work with and overweight lead out and replaces her with the pretty, dim, moldable one. he also manages to impregnate the fat one and leave her; she ends up on welfare. meanwhile, of the two original members left, one- her married boyfriend dies of a heroine overdose and two-marries the unscrupulous manager only to divorce him at the height of her fame. he ends up being extorted because of his illegal practices. the end? no. after all of this happens, the story suddenly and unexpectedly ends happily. i won't spoil the details, but this conclusion is so utterly implausible that you either need to applaud it for cheering you up before walking out of the theater or condemn it as sheerly ridiculous. i can't decide which.
this is a mediocre musical that was probably made superior on screen. however, this superiority was achieved by costumers, make up artists and, to a lesser degree, singers--not from writers, directors, or actors. bill condon obviously watched chicago
as a textbook for making this movie. and even though chicago
wasn't a great film itself, dreamgirls
here appears in many ways a weak, motown copy of it. this was definitely a fun flick to watch and if eddie murphy wins an oscar for his supporting role, i won't be happy for him personally, but he maybe earned it professionally. as for jennifer hudson, if there was an oscar for emotive singer, she would take the prize, but honestly there isn't a whole lot of acting here.
and as a final note, this is NOT A GAY MOVIE. i am so sick of gay people claiming dreamgirls
as their own. the director isn't gay, none of the performers is gay (in fact, both murphy and hudson have both openly displayed animosity towards us). and not a single character is gay. just because this is a lavish broadway musical does not, in my opinion, place it as a gay cultural object. i think that gay people wear their hearts on their sleeves a little too often, and they should hold out a little bit before the starting stamping the gay housekeeping seal of approval on things.