Sunday, July 03, 2016


The Gist: A trio of black singers hope to make it big in a mostly white-dominated landscape. They will, after meeting a savvy and unscrupulous manager, but trouble lies ahead for the relationships that connect them.

I don't know why, but I'm a bit wary about musicals. I usually end up enjoying them, but the "bursting into song" required by the format always lurks in the back of my mind as a totally unrealistic event and therefore out of place.

Dreamgirls is a movie I had wanted to watch for a while, and finally did, and obviously loved it. The songs are beautiful and the sung parts feel very organic to the plot.

Jennifer Hudson won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance, and I finally got to see her. She's really, really good, so the win was well deserved.

Eddie Murphy also was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, his only nomination to date, but his race turned into an upset on Oscars night. The Academy Award went to Alan Arkin instead, and Murphy likely lost the only chance he'll ever have to win an Oscar.

Rumor has it that the release of yet another stinker of a comedy shortly before the closing of the voting period torpedoed his chances. Whatever the case may be, Murphy is primarily a comedic actor and while early on in his career he starred in some good films, the kind of movies he was putting out around this time was simply embarrassing.

On the other hand, Arkin, an older actor with a solid reputation in the industry, and two previous nominations, was likely staring at his last chance to grab an Oscar. His win, in my view, was justified, particularly given the excellent performance he gave us in Little Miss Sunshine.

To put it in perspective, while Murphy won a lot of awards for his role in Dreamgirls, and came into the final stretch as the favorite to walk away with the Oscar, his situation reminded me of Jim Carrey. Carrey, a comedic actor famous for his unique ability to alter his facial expressions, made a fortune starring in comedies of the lowest denominator. He's undoubtedly a talented actor, as he demonstrated in films like The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but he seems to always want to remind us of how good he is at stretching his facial muscles, so in spite of his frequent jabs at the Academy for overlooking him, he remains underrated as an actor deserving of recognition at the highest levels. And I can't say I'd really argue with that.

Carrey and Murphy likely bump into the same kind of resistance that even the great Robert De Niro, one of the most talented actors ever, would likely face nowadays because it appears that he repeatedly chooses to star in silly and low rated comedies only to pocket a quick (but fat) check. That kind of thinking lowers your cachet no matter how good you might have been in the past. It's undignified.

That doesn't mean that actors in comedies shouldn't get their dues (Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt did it) or that great actors shouldn't star in commercial vehicles. Cate Blanchett, Ian McKellen, and Dame Judi Dench, to name a few, have done it, but they all picked worthy fare. There is an insurmountable chasm between say Skyfall and Dirty Granpa.

Jamie Foxx and Beyoncé Knowles, with supporting players Danny Glover, Keith Robinson, and Anika Noni Rose, round up the excellent cast. The acting is great, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the fabulous costumes, the glorious production design, the rich cinematography, and of course the magnificent score and songs. Of special note are, I Am Changing and the amazing (and amazingly performed by Hudson) And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going. Just breathtaking.

The Bottom Line: Unless you have a complete aversion for the genre, do watch Dreamgirls. You won't regret it.

Grade: 8

No comments: