I love black music. That’s what it’ s called here in Greece cause we never went through a “race music” or “African-American music” phase. I hate talent shows. They are a ridicule to the word talent, modern freak shows hiding behind a “that’s show biz” alibi you can punch holes through. Jennifer Hudson apparently lost the flamboyant “American Idol” title recently to a more American-idol-like contestant. Now, she collects awards and nominations for her part in Dreamgirls. I guess the public knows best.
Hudson plays the part of Effie White, the lead singer to small R&B group trying to make it in show biz called “The Dreamettes”. They make their first step up with the help of a used car salesman, Curtis Taylor Jr who puts them behind R&B idol Jimmy “Thunder” Early and they succeed. But once a used car salesman always a used car salesman, so Taylor proceeds with his own business plans for the group. Extra-talented but chubby Effie isn’t in them as her leading place is given to the beautiful Deena Jones. Soon the personality driven Effie is kicked out by the Cadillac guy and the real backstage story kicks off.
It was a hit Broadway show for over a thousand nights. Could it be a good movie? Bill Condon took the story from stage to screen the best way he could. It’s not an extravagant musical or a seen-it-before success flick. It’s a story about questions that still aren’t fully answered. What does it take to make it in the so called show biz world? Is it a load of “yes”, a big pile of “no” or a combination that creates the formula? It certainly is a story about personality battles. Taylor knows talent isn’t the main ingredient for success so he wants a star he can control. High-powered Effie is too smart for him but mild Deena is perfect.
It’s also a tale about personal ties that eventually thrive over a world built on idle PR. Deena rises above herself and wins her childhood friend back. Finally it’s a cool metaphor of those great but difficult blaxploitation years where music was stolen every other moment and black people were stepping on each other to get a glimpse of the glamorous world of a white owned business. Does the movie hold its ground to all those different levels? I think so.
Direction is good, the music is obviously soulful and passionate and artistic arrangements are top notch. What makes it a delightful experience though, are the performers themselves who give their best at every part. Only Jamie Foxx doesn’t seem comfortable in the role of the dis likable bastard. Murphy is in James Brown mode and Hudson acts and sings like a veteran.
Welcome Jennifer to the unstable world of show biz where an extraordinary debut can ruin a whole career. Watch it.