Friday, January 05, 2007

Dreamgirls: Ruth's take

When we started this blog, we had visions of the two of us arguing over the movies we see, just as we do every time we leave the theater together. Mostly it hasn't worked out that way, since we live in different cities and seldom see the same movies.

I decided not to read Cat's take on Dreamgirls and give you my own. You, dear reader, can decide how much or how little we agree.

To my absolute surprise, Dreamgirls made me think. I never saw the stage show, but I expected a big noisy fun musical with a lot of sequins and flash. Certainly, it is all that, but there is a quieter side, a darker side to Dreamgirls that makes it fun to think about afterwards.

The one person in the movie who never wore any sequins ran away with the show: Jamie Foxx, as Curtis Taylor, Jr., gave a bravura performance as a complex character, a supremely successful salesman who winds up being the king of the sell-out. Watching and listening to Curtis, I took a visceral trip through the process that made Motown: what it took to put African American musicians on the mainstream stage. I got it that none of the marvelous musicians he managed had an ice cube's chance of national success until he softened the edges, tailored the women's sex appeal to white tastes, and softened the sexuality of the black male performers.

Along the way, performers who can't fit the formula are cast aside: Effie, whose big voice is matched by a too-big body, and James "Thunder" Early, who is nobody's eunuch. Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy give performances of a lifetime in those two roles: trying to fit, then going off like shooting stars. Murphy, particularly, reminded me that the flip side of comedy is tragedy: he can do them both.

Beyonce Knowles, the third big star in this show, did a satisfying disappearing act into the role of Deena, the Dreamgirl with star power.

Finally, kudos to the person who decided to do something new and different with the credits at the end, not only showing us who played who but also who did what: a taste of what a cinematographer does, what the editor does, etc. That was fun, and kept us in our seats to watch as well as listen.

Dreamgirls was a fun evening, and a great conversation afterwards. Thumbs up!


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