Saturday, January 06, 2007

Effie we all got pain

Dreamgirls was the film I surprisingly enjoyed most while in the US (so much so that I bought the soundtrack and saw it twice). It's a past-paced musical loosely based around the story of the Supremes, with Beyonce Knowles playing the Diana Ross character and American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson as poor ousted Florence Ballard (the character is called Effie in the film). Hudson didn't do too well in American Idol - she wasn't voted to the final round and was only put through as a "wildcard" choice by one of the judges. Once in the finals, she got low votes at the start and was the 6th finalist to be voted off. The public just didn't get her.

However, from the "you go girl!" responses of the viewing audiences of Dreamgirls, they certainly get her now. As Effie White, a sassy plus-size diva who has the strongest voice and personality in the group, she has to endure the humiliation of being made to sing in the background and her jealousy and unprofessional behaviour eventually get her kicked out of the group, where she ends up in single-parent squalour. At a key point in the film, the entire cast turn on her in an "intervention" bust-a-move diva-power-battle that's set to music. My favourite exchange is:

Michelle: Now you watch your mouth, watch your mouth, Ms. Effie White. 'Cause I don't take that talk from no second-rate diva, who can't sustain.

Effie: I'm not feeling well. I've got pain.

Everyone: Effie, we all got pain!

It's one of those hyper-dramatically camp scenes that's worth learning by heart and reciting at every available opportunity (as with Glenn Close's "ceruleum" speech in Devil Wears Prada). The recording is here:

And kudos to this group of friends who've done the whole thing in their living room in one take, with no music (or wigs) at all:

Hudson has the plum role in the film. She gained 20 pounds in order to play Effie, and auditioned along with over 750 other actresses to get the part (including that year's American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino). An Oscar nomination is expected.

Someone should really be making a musical of Hudson's life.


Old Cheeser said...

Looks and sounds fabulous, I can't wait to see it when it comes out over here. The Effie number is brilliant and she does have a great voice. (Another number I love from the musical is "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going", probably one of THE ultimate diva songs). I had heard that Beyonce is a bit disappointing but I'm still looking forward to seeing her as the Diana Ross character.

I enjoyed reading the real life story of Ms Ross and The Supremes and all their power struggles so I hope the film will be just as compelling!

matty said...

You know, I tried to like this movie. I thought she was great, tho. However, I remember thinking the same thing of the actress I saw in the play that toured the US back in the mid 80's. And, I never felt the composers attempted to really capture the Motown Sound. I remember thinking it all sounded 80's soul gone bway in the play -- and now it still sounds too contemporary to me.

...I only liked one number in the play and the movie, really. I am alone. I was then and am now. However, how often does one see a movie where a performer on a screen gets such a huge response from the audience?!?!? That was exciting. However, it was the same when I saw it on stage.

...And, I think they were far too easy on Miss. Ross, by the way. it wasn't all Berry's doing. Which is too bad because Beyonce managed to look almost exactly like D!!

But, I do love my Miss Ross! The Boss!

I thought this movie was well photographed.