Somewhere along the way, Kris and I developed the tradition of seeing a movie (or, sometimes, more than one) on Christmas Day. I think this stems mostly from the fact that all of our Christmas celebrations are finished before the day itself, so that we’re left with a lot of time on our hands. Plus it’s kind of fun to venture forth for a mundane task on a day that the rest of the world shuts down.

Except that in the past decade, more and more people have developed the same habit.

The first Christmas film we can recall seeing is Schindler’s List in 1993. (Kind of a downer, I’m sure you’ll agree.) Because this is the season for Oscar-caliber pictures, those are the sort that we usually see. The worst Christmas film we ever saw was Gangs of New York. We were joined by the Mirons that day, and the other three in our group hated the film. I thought it was okay, but certainly no Oscar-worthy.

Yesterday Tiffany joined us to see Dreamgirls, a movie that has already received its fair share of Oscar buzz. Dreamgirls, a musical, is a fictionalized account of the rise of Diana Ross and The Supremes. It stars Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, and Eddie Murphy, and features the debut of Jennifer Hudson, a young woman with a magnificent set of lungs.

Dreamgirls gets a lot of things right. It is one of the best-directed films I’ve ever seen. Or maybe it’s just well-edited. It zooms along at an exhilarating pace, never feeling rushed, but never lingering over any scene for too long. (Kris felt that some of the numbers are ill-conceived — she cited “Family” as too stagey and over-the-top, for example.) The acting is good. The script, though trite, is adequate. This is a well-made film.

Its greatest weakness is a lack of catchy songs. Like most modern stage musicals (Dreamgirls made its Broadway debut 25 years ago, on 20 December 1981), the songs are too “busy”, with little melodic hook. Still, there are some knock-outs. The film’s centerpiece is Jennifer Hudson’s “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”, which she belts out of the park. (Many reviewers are writing that Dreamgirls is worth seeing for this number alone. They’re not wrong.)

Dreamgirls is a fine piece of entertainment — well-made and brisk. Like many films, it lacks a certain something that might have made it great, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it in the running for Best Picture. (And there’s little doubt that “I Am Telling You” will win for Best Song.)

Here’s a schizophrenic trailer for the film:

And here’s a clip from the show’s second-best number, “Listen”, which Knowles nails:

Finally, here’s an amateur production of the show’s centerpiece confrontation, including “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” (which begins at about the 3:45 mark):

Meanwhile, at home we’ve been watching some of our traditional Christmas films. We haven’t seen It’s a Wonderful Life yet this year, but we’ve seen two of our other favorites: Meet Me in St. Louis and Love Actually (the latter of which we’ve seen twice now).

3 Replies to “Dreamgirls”

  1. Lauren says:

    I had my own Christmas movies. We saw two movies at the $1 theatre in a nearby town [to my boyfriend’s home near Cleveland]: we saw “The Prestige” and “The Illusionist”, two movies based around magic –but the plots just use magic as their ‘vehicle’. (The Prestige is about obsession, and The Illusionist is about lost-and-found love). Both were wonderful — and each had fascinating endings.

  2. Blogeois says:

    Sounds like Dreamgirls is a hit!

    We have our own Christmas movie traditions though this is at home via DVDs.

    The minute after seeing what the Santa looks like in the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade (THAT makes all the difference in the world) we pop in Scrooge (1951) followed by It’s A Wonderful Life. Sometime before Christmas we make sure to watch Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph and on Christmas Eve day we watch Scrooged (1988(?) with Bill Murray).

    All day Christmas Day we devote ourselves to at least one viewing of A Christmas Story on TBS which is run for 24 hours straight.

    And I’m with you on the Gangs of New York viewing. That would be a terrible movie to see then. (Or anytime in my opinion. I still don’t get that movie.)

  3. Rhea says:

    I have not seen the film yet, but I was lucky enough to be working in the entertainment press in Boston on the night that “Dreamgirls” opened for out-of-town tryouts. So I got to see/hear Jennifer Holliday sing that amazing song live for the first time! So many years later, I still remember the power of that performance. I am looking forward to hearing Jennifer Hudson in the film.

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