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Dreamgirls Isn’t Oscar-Worthy

Hey, I didn't say it. I just thought it. Christopher Orr of The New Republic said it: The real surprise, however, shouldn't be that it wasn't nominated for Best Picture, but rather that anyone imagined it deserved to be. Yes, … Read More

By / January 31, 2007
Jewcy loves trees! Please don't print!

Hey, I didn't say it. I just thought it.

Christopher Orr of The New Republic said it:

The real surprise, however, shouldn't be that it wasn't nominated for Best Picture, but rather that anyone imagined it deserved to be. Yes, the movie has its pleasures. The music is good and the vocal performances superb, in particular Jennifer Hudson, who got a supporting actress nomination for her troubles. And Eddie Murphy, also nominated, is an (unexpected) blast of R&B brio. But a series of musical numbers do not a good movie make, especially not when the movie fails, as Dreamgirls does, almost every other imaginable cinematic and narrative criterion.

We have Chicago to blame, of course. The 2002 Best Picture winner (itself a good, though overrated, movie) was widely expected to usher in a new era of major movie musicals. But it didn't. So when Dreamgirls finally arrived, offering us another big-budget, big-star musical extravaganza–not to mention one written and directed by Bill Condon, the same guy who wrote the script for Chicago–people assumed lightning would strike a second time.

It didn't. Dreamgirls's plot–the rise and occasional fall of a Motowny girl group, their loves and losses, loyalties and betrayals–bears a closer resemblance to Valley of the Dolls (minus the irresistible camp and sleaze) than to a witty, acerbic take on sex, violence, and celebrity like Chicago. Moreover, in contrast to the narrative momentum and visual panache of its predecessor, Dreamgirls is plodding and literal, lurching along with no real narrative rhythm or flow. It's frequently difficult to tell how much time is meant to have passed from scene to scene–six weeks? six years?–a shortcoming the film addresses by loudly declaring anniversaries and the age of a child. It doesn't help that the film alternates almost exclusively between triumph and tragedy, painting on emotional texture with a spatula. (The girls get a gig at a ritzy Florida hotel–yay! Curtis steals the single that was going to be Effie's comeback–boo!)

Orr ended the review on a particularly euphonious note:

All that's missing is Simon Cowell. Which is a shame: He might have had a few choice words for this talent show masquerading as a motion picture.

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