I always try to watch movies that win a major Oscar, even if I don’t otherwise have a real interest in the film. This was definitely the case with Dreamgirls, the 2006 musical in which newcomer Jennifer Hudson earned an Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. Other than wanting to see if Hudson’s performance lived up to the hype, I had no desire to sit through this movie. In fact, I didn’t even know Dreamgirls was an actual musical. I knew it was about music, of course, but I didn’t know it was a musical, with the actors singing parts of their dialogue and all that. Anyway, I finished the DVD with mixed feelings: Hudson was awesome, but the movie on the whole was a yawner.
Plot summary (with possible spoilers): From what I’ve read, Dreamgirls was loosely based on the rise to fame of Diana Ross and the Supremes back in the 1960s. I will say right now that I don’t know anything about the Supremes and don’t even know the names of anyone else in the group besides Ross, so I have no idea which characters in the film correlate to which real-life people. Therefore, I’m just going to give my reaction to the film itself and not its consistencies or inconsistencies in regards to the Supremes.
When the movie opens, Effie White (played by Hudson), Deena Jones (Beyoncé Knowles), and Lorell Robinson (Anika Noni Rose) are a group of young women (known as The Dreamettes) entered into a talent contest at the famous Detroit Theater. While they don’t win that night, they do attract the attention of Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Jamie Foxx), a wannabe music producer who currently owns a Cadillac dealership. Curtis approaches the girls, tells them they’ve got a bright future, and gets them to accept him as their manager. He immediately gets them a gig singing backup to James Early (Eddie Murphy) on a national tour.
Curtis isn’t content to have the girls just be Jimmy’s backup singers. He believes that they could achieve mainstream success if they had the right songs, so he hires Effie’s brother to write some stuff for them. However, this still doesn’t do much good, so Curtis decides to play the payola game in order to get the girls some airtime.
Eventually, the Dreamettes do become the successful group that Curtis envisioned. They break away from Jimmy, change their name to The Dreams, and become one of the most popular acts in the country. This success also leads to numerous problems for the group members (particularly Effie White), of course, and that’s what the rest of the film deals with.
My Reaction: As I said above, Jennifer Hudson was simply amazing as Effie White. I had a hard time believing that she was a newcomer, or that she was nominated in the Supporting Actress category since she was such a big part of the movie. At any rate, I think it’s safe to say that her performance was the only thing that kept me watching this movie from beginning to end. Hudson dominated the screen and stole every scene she was in. Whether she was singing or just acting, she commanded attention.
Unfortunately, the rest of the film dragged. The problem for me was that none of the songs were interesting or memorable, which obviously is not the effect you want from a musical. I saw the movie just five days ago, but I’ve already forgotten all of the songs. There weren’t any “showstoppers” in there, and that made the movie incredibly boring for me. I even started fast forwarding through scenes where the girls were singing because all they did was stand there on the stage and sing! That’s not what I was expecting from this film.
As strong as Jennifer Hudson’s performance was, I don’t think she’s enough of a draw to merit watching Dreamgirls. I give this movie just 2 stars out of 5 and recommend that you give it a pass.