It seemed that there was destiny (no Bey pun intended) in the air surrounding the project. Entertainment mogul and DreamGirls rights-holder, David Geffen, turned down adaptation offers for years. The infinitesimal amount that gained the slightest steam swiftly cooled off. Condon long fantasized about doing the musical, but reportedly didn't think he'd have a shot with Geffen, especially since he hadn't directed a conversion before and the majority of his resume consisted of anything but Broadway (he wrote the screenplay for Chicago in 2002). A casual conversation about Chicago with producer Laurence Mark led to a lunch date with Geffen, who stiffly reiterated his hesitance at scheduling. The immovable Geffen granted Condon his wish after hearing a roughly 10-minute description of Condon's vision.
Beyoncé Knowles' creative collaborator and choreographer, Frank Gatson, supposedly prophesied that she was Deena somehow, when she was 16. Jennifer Hudson had little notoriety and no significant acting credits then, but she beat out over 750 actresses for the essential part of Effie White...Holliday's role. Hudson's claim-to-fame was Season 3 of Idol in 2004, of which she didn't fare too well. She had to be salvaged by Randy Jackson as a "Wild Card" pick, only to eliminated again and place 7th. Like Effie, she was about to get a triumphant second wind. It might have just been extra gravity that she had the same first name and initials as her predecessor, she and Knowles were born 4 days apart in September the year DreamGirls debuted in 1981 (third "Dream" Anika Noni Rose's birthday is September 6, 1972), and the film was set for theater release on December 25, 2006...exactly 25 years and 5 days after the stage production. Sparkling fairy-dust all around, DreamGirls was revived to cast its spell on a new generation, and I was surely bewitched, bothered and bewildered. It was everything I dreamed (pun totally intended) it would be. So, in commemoration (I can't believe it's been a decade already), here are things I love and observed about one of my favorite movies.
The Aesthetic Was Magical Mr. Mistoffelees
Part of what makes DreamGirls so intoxicating is its dazzling and meticulous aesthetic. From the opening scene, everything flashes, shimmers and gleams. Elements like spinning mirrors/reflections, glitter and snapping bulbs create this sense of magic that's used to heighten and emphasize parts of the story, entrapping the viewer. Some of the most enchanting numbers are the title song and "I'm Not Going," of course. The Dreams' first performance is announced over rumbling drums and harking horns, as they appear in an iconic pose under a spotlight on a rotating platform. The angle is at such a distance and the ladies are so frozen still, it's as if they're music box figurines. When they shuffle out on stage, I could just die. It's everything I love about pop-divadom and girl-groups: precision, glamour and infectious tunes. While Deena delightfully twirls and croons "All you have to do is dream," the audience fades and all you see are a bevy of lights that look like stars. The Dreams go back into formation (I had to say that, haha) at the conclusion, and a shining press montage begins to signify their stardom. It's so beautiful and fantastic. "I'm Not Going" marks Effie's heartbreaking descent from the group. People she's known since childhood have abandoned her, and they vanish between mirrors like ghosts. She begins to plea with Curtis. It's hard to watch because you know she's been in love by herself the whole time, and he doesn't know she's pregnant. Curtis dashes out, and she's left pronouncing "you're gonna love me!" to an empty ballroom. The space becomes shadowy and hollow, with single beams highlighting her face or outlining her body, as she grips her growing belly with anguish. It's incredible how it underscores both her loneliness and defiance. In a symbolic blink, the camera pans away from her mid-note to gold curtains, fireworks and The Dreams in stance with their replacement. They not-so-ironically sing a song that has the main lyric of "Love, love me baby, love, love me, child." In the finale, the group reunites with Effie for their farewell show. The movie closes with them in one last pose, encircled by silver glitter that turns to blue, with an overlaying "twinkling" sound effect for the directing/producing credit. The next thing we see is a close-up of Deena and Effie holding hands as teens, initiating pop-art-like collage frames for the cast/crew credits. Hudson appears last for a classic "Introducing..." roll, designed for thunderous applause. These are just a few examples. If love is in the details, DreamGirls is cupid. Even the menu on the DVD is entertaining and visually captivating.