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Directed by Bill Condon, Dreamgirls is very loosely told story of real supergroup The Supremes but is more a cautionary tale than anything else with slick salesman Taylor knowing how to push quality product but leaving a trail of destruction in his wide wake as his singers being to fail and fall apart as he ditches them like debris while he repositions and recasts his acts for Top 40 glory. Murphy is a sensation as the crumbling Early, as the once frontman succumbs to drugs and obscurity in a performance that is without a doubt the best of his career. But it is newcomer Hudson, in her acting debut, that owns this film from the opening act right to the end with a heartbreaking, passionate role that won her an Academy Award.
That Moment: Taylor is pushing the girls to go big, but to attract white audiences and Billboard success, he thinks Effie is too large and her voice to ‘churchy’ to stay up front and so replaces her with the much slimmer, model-type Deanna (Beyoncé Knowles). Effie is furious about being cast as the back-up to Deanna, despite the group’s rising stardom and growing worldwide popularity, but is hurt worse when Curtis shifts his affection from her to Deanna. When they arrive at Caesar’s Palace, after learning she is pregnant, she is told that she is fired, and alone on stage belts out the stirring “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” song to an empty house.
Why it Matters: It’s the passion that knocks us over, the fierce independence while her heart is breaking that makes this song the film’s centerpiece and the chilling cry to be heard when no one is listening. Hudson is a revelation as Effie, outclassing every other singer in the cast, though not by fault of their own (especially Knowles whose character is meant to be less talented). It’s important in this scene that Taylor walks out without looking back and never hears the song because the song isn’t for him, even if she is declaring it in his direction. This is for herself, an emotional reckoning of where she stands and the line she is drawing in the sand about what she deserves. It’s a powerful piece of cinema.
Five-Word Review: Often soars but falls short.
Bill Condon (screenplay), Tom Eyen (book)
Beyoncé Knowles, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy