Merry New Year!
Like many people, I went to see Dreamgirls over the holidays and, overall, I liked it very much. For those who have not seen the movie be warned - there are several spoilers below.
I was not blown away by Jennifer Hudson, but I give her extra credit for being in her first movie ever and holding her own with proven actors like Jaime Foxx and Danny Glover. I think she was just right. And of course her singing was amazing and not just the showstopper And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going. I am not an American Idol fan, so this is the first time that I've really had a chance to hear her voice and I've got to say, ole Simon Cowell had a good reason to eat crow on Oprah. You can't fool with people when God's hand is on them Simon!
I think the montage sequences in Dreamgirls robbed the story of some of the dramatic tension, especially with Deena and Effie. You never saw the tension of their deteriorating friendship or Effie losing her mind over Curtis to the point of wailing And I'm Telling You. It all seemed rather sudden to me but I guess that Heavy recording session was supposed to suffice. And I thought it was hilarious how the Deena character was just a sweet little innocent lamb that had nothing to do with all of the dirt Curtis was doing. In the Broadway play, Deena was in on it from the beginning and she couldn’t wait to step into the solo spotlight. Heck, that's the first thing I remember about Sheryl Lee Ralph. The first time I ever heard of her was when she made a splash on Broadway as the "evil" Deena who "was not" modeled after Diana Ross in any way, shape or form.
I know the filmmakers keep saying that Dreamgirls has nothing to do with Diana Ross and that they were only “inspired” by her, but dang!
The Broadway musical took great pains (legally and creatively) to avoid direct references to the Supremes and Motown, but the movie goes even further. Whereas something like (married) Jimmy and Lorrell’s affair could be anybody, anywhere in the music industry – there were certain scenes that were blatant rip offs of Diana Ross’s life and career that went far beyond the Broadway production. It’s hilarious to me, because everyone keeps saying “no, no, it’s not Diana Ross’s life…” Well, they’re right. They took from other Motown lives as well, but I guess it’s fine because they are, in many ways, depending on the ignorance of the young audience. Of course, I’m only in my late thirties, so I’m sure someone older than me would spot even more than I did. The most glaring for me was the photoshoot sequence (see Diana's Mahogany photo shoot sequence complete with Cleopatra costumes.) The farewell performance with Effie mirrors Diana's famous farewell performance with the Supremes in Las Vegas in 1970. She left for her solo career and was replaced by Jean Terrell. And Deena walking through the audience (Hello everyone...what a wonderful evening...) straight up vintage Diana Ross singing Reach Out and Touch in concert. Curtis pushing for Deena to play Cleopatra (and Deena thinking it's ridiculous because the character is 16-years-old throughout the movie) reminded me of Diana getting criticized for being too old to play Dorothy in The Wiz. James "Thunder" Early getting his "message" album rejected by Curtis mirrors Berry Gordy's reaction to Marvin Gaye's What's Going On album. As the story goes, Gordy hated it and wanted Marvin (Marvin!) to stick to his Hitchhike sound, but Marvin wasn't having it. He fought Gordy (his brother-in-law at the time) and (Thank God!) What's Going On was released. Thankfully Marvin had his own brand of Thunder!
And how about the fake Michael Jackson kid talking about "I'm waiting for Deena." Cha-mon now...