In a year of few Oscar surprises, one of the only eyebrow raisers was the lack of a Best Picture nomination for Dreamgirls. A big, bold adaptation of the ’80s musical, its story riffs on the rise of Motown Records. It’s also stuffed with stars (Eddie Murphy, Beyoncé Knowles) and directed by Bill Condon, who bagged an Oscar for writing Chicago.
Dreamgirls takes its lead from that movie, with its breathless storytelling packing in enough razzle-dazzle to leave viewers and Academy voters seeing stars. There’s also Jennifer Hudson as Effie White, the fiery lead Dream who’s usurped in the girl group by the blander, but more marketable Deena (Beyoncé). It’s Hudson’s red-eyed, lung-puncturing version of ‘And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going’ that stamped her name on a Best Supporting Actress Oscar and puts co-star Knowles is the shade. But it’s also notable as one of the few moments that demands a direct emotional reaction among the slick editing and Motown pastiches.
In fact Knowles, stuck with the shitty end of the character stick, is fine; the filmmakers admit to reigning her back on the massive two-hour long documentary. Along with several more production-specific featurettes, the two-disc edition makes for a comprehensive – if utterly uncontroversial – peek behind the sparkly curtains. The DVD then, much like the movie, is definitely more of a Deena – blanky polished and glossed – than the heartbreakingly soulful Effie. Sometimes, the Oscars do get it right.