Dreamgirls is Supreme
"Dreamgirls" is both an interesting and surprisingly good movie. It's interesting because whilst it is a fictitious storyline adapted from the Broadway musical it's impossible not to recognize that whilst characters are fictitious the actual trio of girls and various events are all drawn from real life. And what is surprising is the fact that "Dreamgirls" is a full blown musical, something which is a rarity these days and a good one at that as it takes us through a series of musical numbers which mirror the passing decades that the movie covers.
It's the 1960s and Detroit car salesman Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Jamie Foxx - Ray) edges himself into the music industry when he signs a trio of young singers called the Dreamettes and secures them a gig as backing singers for James "Thunder" Early (Eddie Murphy - Life). One thing leads to another and Curtis sets up his own record label as he takes on the establishment to get his performers air time. But when Early starts to go off the track he turns the Dreamettes from backing singers into the Dreams a group on their own and decides that Deena (BeyoncĂ© Knowles) should take over lead vocals from Effie (Jennifer Hudson), something which causes major problems. It doesn't take long for Curtis to oust Effie completely replacing her with a slimmer singer. But how long can Curtis keep pushing the Dreams in particular Deena and will Effie return to haunt him?
As already mentioned "Dreamgirls" is a fictitious story but one which mirrors various events which happened and it doesn't take a brain surgeon to realise that it draws heavily on the story of Diana Ross and The Supremes. But being fictitious makes it even more enjoyable than being a straight up biopic, it permits it to make up events which add to the drama rather than smudging the line between reality and fiction as to what it would have come across as if it had been a purely biopic. And because of this the storyline skips along giving us drama followed by song over and over again whilst the whole time mirroring what was really happening back in the 60s.
But what for me is quite surprising is that "Dreamgirls" really is a full blown musical. Oh there have been many bio-pics of musicians but they weren't what you would call a full on musical but with "Dreamgirls" it delivers that old style entertainment. What I mean is that you have a catalogue of great songs and there are a few dance routines thrown in for good measure but you also get songs which aid the transition from one scene to the next as they tell the story. A prime example is when Effie learns that Deena is replacing her as the groups lead singer, we get a musical number which tells the story, the rage that Effie feels whilst those around her try to placate her. It is something which you are either going to like or not because it's not something seen in a lot of movies these days even those with a musical aspect.
It is testament to how good "Dreamgirls" is as a musical that many of the songs are instantly recognizable. From songs such as the snappy "Move", the moody "Steppin' to the Bad Side" and the hugely powerful "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" the songs have gone beyond the movie and are now favourites. And to be honest those are but a few songs in a massive list of great musical numbers which make up "Dreamgirls".
And if the combination of the storyline and all the memorable musical scenes wasn't enough there is not a single dodgy performance from any of the stars. Now there are plenty of recognizable faces such as Danny Glover, Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy as the larger than life James 'Thunder' Early all of which deliver in every single scene, especially Murphy who creates a memorable character in Early. But it is the trio of females, BeyoncĂ© Knowles, Anika Noni Rose and Jennifer Hudson who really shine especially in the countless musical scenes. And Jennifer Hudson really shines not only singing her heart out as Effie but also creating a believable character as the one dumped from the group for various reasons. Considering Hudson hadn't acted before "Dreamgirls" it is as good a performance as any of the big name stars with more acting experience.
What this all boils down to is that "Dreamgirls" is a joy to watch taking us back to the 60s with a fictitious storyline which is so well crafted that it feels believable as it draws on real events for inspiration. It is also a full blown musical and that aspect is something which you are either going to love or hate with a few musical numbers inserted to tell the story where you wouldn't expect them. But for me it was a joy to watch and a good example of how well a modern musical can be.