Saturday, 3 March 2007

Dreamgirls: And I Am Telling You

Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls

Dreamgirls is shot Bill Condon style - lots that reminded me of Chicago. Or is that just because there are so few movie musicals these days? In any case, for an avid, avowed Motown fan such as myself, Dreamgirls was a great exercise in spot-the-parallels (ooh, and just as I typed that, the Supremes' "Where Did Our Love Go?" came on): the Dreamgirls = the Supremes, Curtis Taylor Jr. = Berry Gordy etc. etc. (although obviously it isn't a direct adaptation, and Paramount has been careful to make clear that it's a fictionalised account).

But enough rambling. The fact is, Dreamgirls, like the musical it was based on, is a show of two acts, and the first act, which belongs to Effie White (Jennifer Hudson), is bang on in terms of that early Motown infectiousness (it must be really hard to write songs for a musical based on Motown, but Henry Krieger has the chops). And it's not news, but good lord, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" is a showstopper. Jennifer Hudson's performance is electric - her voice is defiant and vulnerable at the same time - and it made me want to get out of my seat and just whoop in applause (it's up there with the version Jennifer Holliday did at the '82 Tonys). It's the kind of moment that show what musicals are capable of, that show how music can take a film to places that ordinary dialogue can't.

Incidentally, random trivia bit on "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going": Jim Carrey sang it on the last episode of The Garry Shandling Show. I'm not kidding. It was amazing. Sammy Davis did it on The Tonight Show in 1982, but didn't do it as well as Jim Carrey. (Link) Man, would love to see the Carrey take.

Back to Dreamgirls: the second act, while solid, is more focused on Curtis Taylor (Jamie Foxx) and Deena Jones (Beyonce Knowles) and the trouble is, Effie is a character of such vim and emotion that the rest of the film post-"And I Am Telling You" pales in comparison. But perhaps that was Motown for you: after its 1960s heyday, where was there to go?

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