Bill Condon’s Dreamgirls is a stunning cinematic experience. Vibrant, energetic, and exploding with life, Dreamgirls is another one of those increasingly rare examples of why we go to the movies in the first place. The musical genre is one of the hardest sells in Hollywood, despite its occasional comeback over the past few years, and Condon has delivered a film that should be regarded as one of the best of the past twenty years.
Based upon the Broadway musical of the same name, Dreamgirls is the story of Deena (Knowles), Lorrell (Robinson), and Effie (Hudson), three struggling, albeit talented, singers who finally get their break when they are offered the chance to open for James “Thunder” Early (Murphy). The girls’ talent is immediately recognized by Curtis Taylor Jr. (Foxx), who immediately takes them under his wing – and eventually to super stardom. But as we all know, stardom comes with a price.
The inner turmoil between the ladies as well as Taylor is the dramatic driver of the film, but the musical talent on display by all involved will have you so engrossed that you may not even notice. Filmed in lush, beautifully lit interiors, Condon captures the essence of the time period to perfection. Characters break into song at will, and it all feels so fresh. The camera moves fluidly and lets ever last detail sink in. At the very least, Dreamgirls is a masterpiece of art direction and set design.
The all-star cast is spot on, but I feel it my duty to single out Jennifer Hudson. A runner-up on American Idol, she is nothing short of a revelation. I have not seen this strong of a debut in years. To say that she nails every musical performance she is assigned is only the beginning; her dramatic acting skills are fantastic. This is one talented woman, and she deserves an Oscar nomination. Jamie Foxx also turns in a solid performance that makes up for the chopped wood he delivered in Miami Vice earlier this year. His transformation from sensitive manager to tyrannical music mogul is chilling and at the same time seamless.
For the musical veteran, you’ll be in heaven with Dreamgirls. This is the kind of traditional musical that we haven’t seen in theaters for quite some time. It’s reassuring to know that projects of this caliber can still be green-lit in what is an otherwise attention-less Hollywood. This is a celebration of the power of music and the joy and sorrow it can bring. Invigorating, emotional, and visually spectacular, Dreamgirls is one of the finest motion pictures of the year.
Length: 131 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for language, some sexuality and drug content.
Theatrical Release: December 15, 2006 (NY/LA) / December 25, 2006 (Wide)
Directed by: Bill Condon
Written by: Bill Condon. Based upon the book by Tom Eyen.
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover, Anika Noni Rose, Keith Robinson