"Dreamgirls" Screened to Applause...Who Smells Oscar?

Like a Broadway musical, "Dreamgirls" debuted last night in simultaneous "One Night Only" sneak screenings in anticipation of its release next month. Will audiences flock to the Jamie Foxx-Beyonce Knowles period musical? Is "Dreamgirls" still a contender for all those rumored Oscar noms, now that people have actually seen the film?

The answers to both questions remain to be seen, but if the San Francisco screening was any indication, DreamWorks and Paramount can expect decent results commercially and critically (at least, judging from the raucous applause from the audience).

Adapted from the stage musical of the same name, "Dreamgirls" follows the Supremes-like rise and fall of the fictional girl group through two decades. Led by the bold-voiced, sassy lead singer Effie (Jennifer Hudson, in her first role ever -- "American Idol" notwithstanding), the na´ve Lorrell (Anika Noni Rose) and pretty, ambitious Deena (Beyonce Knowles) form The Dreamettes, a talented but struggling trio in 1960s Detroit.
When they team up with a determined manager, Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx), the Dreamettes become the backing singers for R&B singer James "Thunder" Early (Eddie Murphy) and get their first taste of success. But as Curtis becomes more intent on turning the girls into a commercially viable act, Effie finds herself pushed out of the group as her old friends move on without her in their quests for fame.

The audience in attendance with me was mixed; a few press, lots of women, some men, all doubtless fans of musicals -- 'cause let's face it, only people who enjoy the cinema's most reviled (by non-fans) genre would jump at the chance to watch the year?s biggest silver screen song-and-dance.

That said, there was a whole lot of clapping going on, and not just during the credits. Many times throughout the film's two hour and five minutes, it was almost as if we were in a live theater where the performer-audience interaction necessitates the artist-gratifying phenomenon of spontaneous applause. Heartfelt ballad? Applause. Sassy one-liner? Applause. Another heartfelt ballad? Applause.

[Actually, the thought did occur during one of the film?s many shows-within-a-show that the theater surround sound made it hard to discern between scripted in-movie applause and the applause of actual people around me. Sneaky marketing trick? I wonder?]

It is no coincidence that first-time actor Jennifer Hudson drew the majority of this applause; her performance is -- surprisingly, soulfully, impressively -- deserving of early Oscar speculation that she might make for a solid Supporting Actress candidate. Not so much for rumors that "Dreamgirls" could make Best Picture. Short of writing a full review (look for one to come), I'll leave it at that.

Over at the LA Times' Gold Derby, Tom O'Neill is gushing about the flick and the response it got at the Beverly Hills screening tonight: "We now, officially, have a best picture frontrunner and one that's going to be tough to beat."

O'Neill is also pegging J.Hud for an Oscar nomination -- not as Best Supporting Actress, as the blogosphere has been ruminating, but as Best Actress. He's right; she simply nails the film's signature song, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," manages to outshine professional diva Beyonce, and holds her own in non-singing scenes opposite the likes of Jamie Foxx and Danny Glover.

The official early release of "Dreamgirls" starts December 15, when the so-called "road show" opens in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles. During these exclusive engagements, theatergoers can peruse special making-of displays showcasing the film's production design and costume design, plus purchase exclusive "Dreamgirls" merchandise and the soundtrack from lobby displays, and enjoy the luxury of assigned-seat ticketing, much like going to live theater! And, just like live theater, the tickets are pricier -- $25 a pop -- but you also get a limited edition program, and the privilege of watching a potential Oscar contender days before its nationwide release on Christmas Day.

"Dreamgirls" is adapted and directed by Bill Condon (Oscar-nominated for the screenplay of 2002's "Chicago") and stars Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, Anika Noni Rose, and Danny Glover.

Watch the trailer here!



joe fisher

Not really a movie I'm excited about, but that's cool if Jamie's having more success. He seems like a good guy. I'm happy for all of them.

Nov 16 - 05:31 AM


chris mark

Dreamgirls lived up to the hype. People went crazy last night. This film will be big at the oscar. This is the first film after the Departed to give the Departed a run for the Oscars. Alot of people was hating on Dreamgirls, myself as one of them but the movie was great. Even Beyonce did a good job. Not Oscar good but good. Bill Condon seems like he knows muscial. He did it with chicago and now Dreamgirls. He should have did Rent and The Producer and maybe they would have been better musicals.

Nov 16 - 06:07 AM


Paul Barrett

Not to be a d--k, but Rob Marshall directed Chicago, not Bill Condon. That said, Condon is an excellent director, so I have high hopes for this film.

Nov 16 - 02:01 PM


filmboy O'Bryant

It seems like everybody is talking about this film after last night. It seems Critics loved the film. We now got another Oscar contender after The Departed.

Nov 16 - 07:52 AM


Joe Russo

I saw it last night too....I am working on my review as we speak. There was applause in Phoenix as well, but I think The Departed is a FAR more worthy film for best picture......We shall see

Nov 16 - 09:04 AM


Brian Thatcher

I think it seems like a good movie... But if 'Little Miss Sunshine' isn't getting a bit of an oscar buzz I=ticked! Its so good!

Nov 16 - 09:51 AM


filmboy O'Bryant

[b]David Poland loves the movie[/b]

Dreamgirls Wake

Overture, curtain, lights
This is it, the night o' nights
No more rehearsing and nursing our parts
We know every part by heart

Overture, curtain, lights
This is it, to hit the heights
And, oh what heights we'll hit
On with the show, this is it

Dreamgirls landed in Beverly Hills (and across the country) last night? and left a giant crater in the Oscar season.

The film was everything promised and more.

More than a traditional musical, as there are only three or four numbers that really feel like traditional musical numbers, and the first of those comes an hour into the film.

More than an all-black movie, which it is, but with a cast of many familiar faces and not real self-awareness of its blackness. It's like the old question, is Chinese food in China "Chinese food" or just "food?"

More than Chicago, which some worried was too cynical to win. Dreamgirls is an emotional musical with highs and lows and real generosity to all of its characters. (Forget the silly talk about Diana Ross being angered by the film. Her character stand-in, played by Beyonce, is a full character who grows into her womanhood. If she were to complain, she would be laughed at.)

The evening, produced by Team DreamAmount, could not have gone much better. It would only be fair to note that it was very much like a premiere, filled will friends and family? and it was not unlike a gay cotillion. When wild applause broke out a few times during the film before the anticipated number started, you knew you were in a room with plenty of theater queens.

That said, it was the enthusiasm after many of the numbers that was amazing. At least seven numbers got applause breaks, including the famous take-away at the end of "I Am Telling You," where as the Michael Bennett did with the musical, Bill Condon jumps immediately into the middle of another number. The show must go on.

There isn't a bad performance in the movie. But the powerful surprise is Jennifer Hudson, who will be winning an Oscar this year, no matter what category they run her in.

The studio long ago decided to go supporting, but the HFPA is considering moving her to lead and she is, indeed, the lead of this film. There is a fear of Dame Helen, but the reality is that this performance would win in any category, whether Actress, Supporting Actress, or Best Short Film. The reason to move her to lead would to make an opportunity available for another performance?

Beyonce absolutely deserves a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role in Dreamgirls. But given the brutal fight for Best Actress slots, I don't believe she can be sure of even a nomination there. As you watch the early parts of the film, it's not real clear that she deserves Academy recognition, but she really soars in the third act with a number of sequences, particularly with her performance of a new Henry Krieger song, "Listen," done almost completely in close-up.

And again? Jennifer Hudson will have an Oscar before the end of February.

Eddie Murphy is terrific here. He is not playing "Eddie Murphy." It is a nuanced performance and his singling leaves people wondering whether it was actually him. He, too, gets a new number, "Patience," on which he duets with Anika Noni Rose. Sign him up for a nomination, though the odds on him winning will have a lot to do with who else ends up in the category.

Jamie Foxx really plays the bad guy in the movie. He kind of devolves from well meaning scumbag to megalomaniacal scumbag. He does a nice job, but he is the one character to whom audiences just won't be able to cozy up. Thing is, the film really needed - and got - his strength and presence in the role. It just isn't very forgiving.

Did I mention that Jennifer Hudson can win whatever Oscar she is up for?

The film feels more like something like The Commitments than a full out movie musical. The numbers are big, but most of them are performance. And the storytelling is surprisingly personal. The three acts - 1. Making It, 2. Breaking It, 3. Seeking Redemption - are distinct as in most non-musical dramas. And each of the major characters gets their opportunity to step up.

In classical Condon, the film doesn't scream at you. But it does envelop you and draw you to each character and the overall arc. Anika Noni Rose's character, for instance, is on some level a classic caricature. But then, she turns into a very real young woman. And her choices, even when there are no words to call attention to them, are a part of the film experience.

The thing that really sticks with you about the Dreamgirls experience is that there is a real joy of performance and show business and artistry. There are many terrific films in play for the Oscar season right now. But none has the size and the fun and the revelation of performance that Dreamgirls offers.

The mo

Nov 16 - 10:50 AM


Chris Turner

I only have one thing to say about this.


Nov 16 - 11:00 AM


Cap Nord

Two sure fire ways to kill a movie at the box office; overhype it and having a few self important star struck 'critics' like Mr. Poland proclaiming it as the winner of this year's Oscar for Best Picture even before it's released and seen by the paying customer. Look what that did to Brokeback Mountain last year.

Nov 16 - 11:31 AM


Tyler Travis

this movie? really? i am not looking forward to this one bit.

Nov 16 - 11:34 AM


Mike Hicks

Oh, sorry, I read that as "'Showgirls' Screened to Applause...Who Smells Oscar?", and got very confused.

Nov 16 - 12:06 PM


Paul Barrett

Not to be a d--k, but Rob Marshall directed Chicago, not Bill Condon. That said, Condon is an excellent director, so I have high hopes for this film.

Nov 16 - 02:01 PM


jonny danger

This news makes me sick to my stomach. Jamie Foxx is a an arrogant prick, and I'm sick of musicals. I have zero interest in this film.

Nov 16 - 02:17 PM


Con Man

*thumbs up*

i wouldn't mind seeing this on DVD or something...

Nov 16 - 06:16 PM


Con Man

*thumbs up*

i wouldn't mind seeing this on DVD or something...

Nov 16 - 06:16 PM


filmboy O'Bryant

Looks like Dreamgirls will take over the oscar after all. Sorry for the Departed.

Nov 16 - 07:41 PM


Marcus Michalik

So excited.

except beyonce would be up for lead actress and j-hud would be up for supporting.

I can not wait any longer!

Nov 16 - 07:53 PM


filmboy O'Bryant

J-Hud has already won the oscar for this movie. Sorry but Beyonce will not get and nod. She was good in the film but not great like the other cast members.

Nov 16 - 08:00 PM


Marcus Michalik

agreed. although Beyonce will more than likely get a Golden Globe Nom because of the musical/comedy category.

Oh its going to be one of those tough golden globe/oscar situations. Dreamgirls will win that best picture award, but can it beat whatever wins drama come Oscar time?

Nov 23 - 09:13 PM


Katie Teasdale

I am quite looking forwrad to this film. Like all genres some are good some are bad so just because people dont like musicals doesn't mean it will suck.
One thing annoys me...why do popstars automatically get nods to star in films. Why not pick someone who has trained hard and worked hard to be an actress......rant rave

Nov 17 - 04:17 AM


Bill Fisher

online movie forums crack me up. whenever a musical
pops up, there appears a strange chorus of naysayers
and those that proudly proclaim thier hatred of the genre.
jeez folks, chill out. musicals have been with us since
sound came in. and if you don't think people want to
see them, check out the current grosses on Broadway.
legit stage shows make more money than movies.
PHANTOM 3.6 billion. CATS 2.5 billion. LES MIZ 3.0 billion.
with a "B". This is more dough than TITANIC.
it's all about commerce--introduce yourselves to reality (and art), folks.

Nov 18 - 07:59 PM


Alex N

Musicals suck! The Jazz Singer should never have been made! Heck, we shouldn't have gone to sound at all so we wouldn't have to risk hearing people sing! Nyah!

That said, I don't have a whole bucketload of interest in this movie, although I loved Foxx in "Ray".

Nov 18 - 08:31 PM


Marcus Michalik

agreed. although Beyonce will more than likely get a Golden Globe Nom because of the musical/comedy category.

Oh its going to be one of those tough golden globe/oscar situations. Dreamgirls will win that best picture award, but can it beat whatever wins drama come Oscar time?

Nov 23 - 09:13 PM

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