Having revisited Dreamgirls this weekend, I’ve been browsing around the ‘net a little and saw a few comments from people who were surprised that the film was passed over for a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. I know this is a little after the fact, but since I never keep my mouth shut and this is, after all, my blog – here goes.
I wasn’t surprised that Dreamgirls didn’t get a “Best Picture” nomination at the Academy Awards. At the end of the day, I think the film has a couple of fundamental flaws that denied it from the privilege of being nominated as “Best Picture”. One of these is that director Bill Condon didn’t quite manage to get the non-diagetic singing to work as it should have – there’s stuff in “Stepping to the Bad Side” and “Family” that ultimately just doesn’t work. Sometimes the screenplay doesn’t quite seem to know where it sits stylistically. I certainly wasn’t distracted by the changes made to the play, but the film wants to have its cake and eat it in terms of what it chooses to use or discard. And although the film has some amazing moments and although it is an immensely emotional experience, these aren’t don’t make up for the gaps left by other elements of the production.
Insofar as comparing Dreamgirls to the most recent musical Best Picture winner, Chicago, I think that Chicago is a far more successful film in the way it is executed as a film production. You can, I suppose, debate the adaptation but I think that the transition from stage to screen is excellently conceptualized. Within reason, a film adaptation shouldn’t be about how literally faithful or not the movie is to a stage production of a show. Chicago, for me, hit the nail on the head in capturing the metaphor that is inherent in the text of the show and adapting that to the medium of film. Sure, it isn’t the emotional experience that Dreamgirls is. But it isn’t meant to be. Chicago itself is a colder, more intellectual musical that, like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, that is presented in a form that appears more comfortable and appeasing. But Dreamgirls is intended to be an emotional rollercoaster, which it certainly is – just not one where every part of the equation adds up to equal “Best Picture”.