hi-five: dreamgirls

i was going to abstain from seeing dreamgirls just because they’ve been trying to shove it down our throats for so long…and because i dreaded having to see the weight of a storyline irresponsibly resting on beyonce’s lack of acting talent. but on the other hand, i really do love films about the (not so) good ol- days in music with girl groups, glamour, and people getting over. while i’m not sure that i will every be as moved by dreamgirls as i was and am by sparkle, i still thoroughly enjoyed the film and will be copping the soundtrack.

backstory/ensemble cast

jennifer hudson as effie white, life based original ‘supreme’ florence ballard/singing stylings modeled after etta james and aretha franklin. effie white is different that ballard because lady flo died of complications from ‘living in the bottle’ before seeing her successful comeback

beyonce knowles as deena jones – life clearly modeled after diva diana ross whom motown patriarch berry gordon designates as the lead singer of the group to appeal to white audiences with her leaner body, lighter skin, and unintimidating vocal presence.

jamie foxx as curtis taylor, jr. – life modeled after motown founder berry gordy, jr, including all the shady economic transactions (but, really…was there any real alternative?). berry gordy was well known for being extremely controlling of motown artists’ images.

eddie murphy as james “thunder” early – life modeled after a mixture of james brown, marvin gaye, and jackie wilson.

anika noni rose as lorrell robinson – life modeled after mary wilson
danny glover as marty, jimmy early, then effie white’s manager who sees straight through curtis taylor, jr.‘s manipulative antics.

 

so, heeeere we go:

 

  1. the casting of the film is perfect! although i have to say i was excited about the rumors from years ago that had lauryn hill cast as deena. of course ms. hill’s talent would have brought as much, if not more, to the film as the hype and lore about beyonce brought to the extremely underdeveloped character (more later).
  2. my mother pointed out that beyonce’s image will probably remain just as squeaky clean as ever because the underdevelopment of her character (deena jones) includes glossing over her complicity, if not active participation, in betraying effie, who was supposed to be her childhood friend. effie comes off like a crazy person when she points out – more than once – that curtis taylor is sleeping with deena jones behind her back. oddly enough, the film’s director had no problem highlighting again and again that lorrell and jimmy early had an adulterous relationship, but not when curtis and deena did the same. i guess when you’re one of the film’s producers (beyonce), you can protect your image however you want.
  3. i was extremely grateful that deena was an important character, but was not expected to carry the film. deena started out as a round character that you could envision showing some growth by the end of the film. at the start, deena is so focused on her career and driven to make it happen. but, after effie’s kicked out of the group, she seems not to have any personality or ambitions of her own. we’re supposed to believe that curtis keeps her suppressed, but the character comes off more like a marionette with no spirit of her own for curtis to suppress, which sort of makes her last-stand song ‘listen’ sound disingenous to me. it’s like throughout all that time when effie was out of the group, deena really did feel like she was an effie replacement and not a woman with an instrument, stories to tell, and a career to make for herself. this is all very apparent when effie makes her comeback at the farewell concert and deena can’t help but defer to effie.
  4. i really enjoyed the acting by supporting actors anika noni rose, keith robinson, and danny glover. in a strange turn of events, deena allowed lorrell to show her growth as character when it should have happened in the reverse. though i’m pretty confident that i never want to hear keith robinson sing again – ever – i look forward to seeing him in more films. and what is there to say about danny glover that we already don’t know? to say the least, he made for a solid counterpart to jamie foxx’s curtis.
  5. much has been made about jennifer hudson’s performance and execution of “you’re gonna love me.” i must admit that when i first heard the audio of it, i was sort of repulsed. i’ve never cared much for the audacity and loudness of the song. but, after experiencing hudson’s acting performance before and after the song, i understood the song better. in my opinion, the vulnerability and self-uncertainty of the song really came through with her performance. now, i do agree with the critics who point out that the camera work and editing of that particular scene left something to be desired. we could have stood more close-ups and fewer camera angles.

 

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~ by Anayah on January 1, 2007.

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