On Friday night Dylan and I went to a press screening of Dreamgirls.
The movie, based on the 1980s hit Broadway musical that helped make Jennifer Holliday a star, follows the career trajectory of the Dreamettes (played by Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson, and Anika Noni Rose), a singing trio trying to make it big, facing plentiful bumps and diversions on their ascent to the top.
Written and directed by Bill Condon (who won an Oscar for writing the Chicago screenplay and also directed the critically-acclaimed Kinsey), and starring Beyonce, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, and Anika Noni Rose, Dreamgirls is going to be the movie to beat this holiday season, and a movie to beat in February at the Oscars.
Let's just cut to the chase about Dreamgirls: The acting is on point, the songs sizzle, the voices are big, and the lush sets, costumes, and wigs dazzle.
The Dreamettes seem to echo The Supremes and even the story of Destiny's Child, the group that made Beyonce a star. In fact, the subtext and parallels with Beyonce and Destiny's Child and Dreamgirls' Dreamettes is undeniable: the group begins singing with each other as teenagers, they get a big break, group members are oustered to streamline the group and its image, and eventually Deena/Diana/Beyonce steps out on her own to become a superstar. You can't watch the movie without wondering what Beyonce really thinks about her role as Deena Jones.
The real Dreamgirls revelation, however, is Jennifer Hudson, the third-season American Idol finalist, whose acting and performance as Effie White is entirely natural and unaffected, and whose voice steals the film. Jennifer hits it way the hell outta the park in a solo half-way through the movie ("And I Am Telling You"), and after that there's no question who this movie belongs to.
World, say hello to Jennifer. Jennifer, say hello to the world.
"It actually felt like we went to see a big Broadway show," Dylan said to me as we were leaving the theater. The energy and pacing of the movie never flagged. There were times during the screening that I forgot I was watching a movie.
Dreamgirls is, without question, one of the best movies I've seen this year, if not the best movie I've seen this year.
You've got to see it when it opens nationwide on December 25.
The Behind-the-Scenes Scoop from the Dreamgirls Screening
Dylan and I took seats in the center section of the movie theater, a few rows up in the main section of seats. Auditorium 13 at the Loews Cinema on 42nd Street is the largest movie theater I've been to in New York City. I settled into my seat and saved Dylan's while he went to get free popcorn and soda, courtesy of the movie studio, and I started eyeing the crowd.
Suddenly I spotted a well-heeled familiar face as she walked into the theater. It took me half a second to realize the woman walking in was Gayle King, Oprah Winfrey's best friend, and editor-at-large of O Magazine.
Gayle, flanked by two handsome men in suits, began looking for a seat. I watched her climb a few stairs, scan the theater, and then approach my row, which was still mostly empty.
And then Gayle King sat right. Next. To. Me.
Dylan came back with two big bags of popcorn and giant sodas ("Can you believe these are only the mediums?" he asked me) and I pulled him down into his seat and whispered into his ear about who was sitting next to us.
"Well, talk to her!" Dylan said.
Gayle, however, made the first move.
"I am so excited to see this movie!" Gayle said to Dylan and me.
"Oh, I know, I am too," I stammered. I wanted to bury my face in my bag of uber-buttered popcorn. Is that all I could come up with? "Ooooh, me too"?
I experienced a sudden wave of shyness, something that's somewhat rare for me. I wasn't nervous, per se, just entirely unsure of what to say to Oprah Winfrey's best friend. I mean, what did I have to say to her?
I started munching my popcorn and guzzling my Diet Coke while she chatted to her male companion (so much for those lesbian rumors?) and mentioned a woman who needed to be invited to an upcoming party and said, "Well, I told Oprah we have to invite her, and she said, 'Well, okay, remind me, because you know I'll forget otherwise.'" Then she perused the contents of her BlackBerry. I did my best to nonchalantly eye the screen to see if any of the messages were from Opie herself, but alas, I couldn't get a clear look.
When the lights went down Gayle said, "Here we go!" And I thought to myself, Oprah's been rubbin' off on her (or vice versa?).
Gayle talked back to the movie every now and again ("Oh, you go, Beyonce!") but Gayle and I actually started talking after Jennifer Hudson's rendition of "And I Am Telling You" half-way through the movie. The number actually caused adrenaline to begin pumping through my veins, and afterward the crowd burst into applause, including Gayle and me.
"Oh my God, that was incredible," I said to her.
"I know! Wasn't that unbelieveable?" she said.
"I want to rewind that scene and see it again," I said, both of us still clapping.
We kept chattering a bit more until somebody behind us actually hushed us. (Oops, sorry!)
After the movie, and after the considerable applause, Dylan and I chatted with her about the movie sweeping the Oscars in February. We said goodbye to her and Dylan and I filed out of the theater.