Goddamnit, the Godfather is gone. Others have pointed out the irony of him dying the day that DREAMGIRLS – with lots to offer, but especially Eddie Murphy’s turn as a Brown-esque singer – opened, so I shall not. And lots of places are linking to YouTube clips of his best work, such as “Please Please Please” and “Sex Machine/Soul Power” and of course, “I Feel Good.” Love ’em all, but a special place in my heart belongs to his last #1 hit, “Living in America.” It’s 80s cheese, but Brown does something so much more by being his outsized, hard-working self.
Speaking of DREAMGIRLS, I’m curious about the critical backlash – okay, a day later, I can totally see the movie’s flaws, which are really the musical’s flaws, but if you didn’t feel chills as Jennifer Hudson sang the hell out of “And I Am Telling You (I’m Not Going)” – or when she first showed up on screen singing lead on “Move It” – then you have no soul. It’s a crowd-pleaser, it looks stunning, there are some serious laugh-out-loud moments (especially the American Bastard – er, Bandstand-ization of “Cadillac Car”) and more to the point, director Bill Condon clearly understood how to translate a very stage-y musical into film’s language. Don’t look for deeper meaning or even carp how thin the roman-a-clef line is between fiction and the Supremes are, because that’s missing the point.
For comparison’s sake, here is original Broadway Dreamgirl Jennifer Holliday singing “And I Am Telling You” at the 1982 Tony Awards. Interestingly enough, she wasn’t the original choice (the show was written with Nell Carter in mind, but she did GIMME A BREAK! instead) and walked out of production twice because she didn’t like the way Effie was originally written.