Dreamgirls... a delayed review!
I'm fairly sure I don't need to tell you the story of 'Dreamgirls'. The well-documented tale of a girl group hitting the uber-heights of stardom via an underhanded switch of lead singers is famous.
What's a little fuzzy here is whether that switch happened purely as a result of their managers love for 'Deena' (the Diana Ross character), played by Beyonce, or if he just sees her voice as being weaker, less 'black', and therefore more likely to cross over to the white dominated charts. In fact, quite a lot gets glossed over as the movie speeds through race riots and political changes quicker than is maybe necessary.
Jennifer Hudson as the slightly too large vocalist with an amazing voice, Effie White, effortlessly steals the movie right out from underneath Beyonces perfectly formed nose. She has undoubtedly the best two numbers in the movie; "One Night Only" and the drag queen anthem "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going", both of which she delivers with passion and relish. The night I saw the movie the latter got a round of applause from the audience, something you rarely see in a cinema! If she doesn't win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, I'll eat my wigs!
Eddie Murphy puts in the only other notable performance as a James Brown-come-Little Richard star whose career is firmly in the descendant. His drug problem is another part of the history thats shown briefly but never fully told or finalised.
Beyonce adds style and glamour when Deena's performing, and she has the Ross mannerisms down to a tee, all coy looks and hunched shoulders. Sometimes its uncanny. The problem here though is that her vocal is TOO strong, there are some songs that seem to support the managers choice to make her the lead and this undermines the story.
If you know the real life story of the Supremes you easily spot all the similarities. The girls start as 'The Dreamettes' (The Supremes started as 'The Pippettes'), before becoming the 'Dreams' and then 'Deena Jones and the Dreams'. Deenas manager is fixated with her starring in a remake of 'Cleopatra', thinking that its a great idea for her to play one of the biggest ever white icons. In reality of course, Diana Ross played the lead in the black version of 'The Wizard of Oz', possibly for the same reason. Songs get stolen and peoples lives, most obviously Effies, get trodden on. Deena ends up... well, maybe I won't tell you that bit.
However, if you don't know the legend that the movie is based on, as my companions that night didn't, then the movie is not compelling enough to stand on its own. Beyonce and Jamie Foxx are quite wooden in their scenes together and you don't really care enough about them enough or how their relationship will pan out. It left me feeling I missed the true magic of the show by not seeing it on stage, where I think the spectacle would have hidden the drab script more successfully.