ENCHANTED BY DREAMGIRLS EXTRAVAGANZA
I arrived in Cannes at around 6PM on Friday after an overnight stay in Nice and a day of sightseeing in Monaco-Monte Carlo. In Monaco, the city was preparing for the Grand Prix Historique, which takes place in the next few days. The winding streets will be transformed into a world-class race track set against yachts in the crystal blue sea. And all in the shadow of the majestic Monte Carlo Casino and Grimaldi Palais. Magnifique.
Needless to say, with that gorgeous introduction to the French Riviera, I wasn't sure it could get much better. But after the DREAMGIRLS I just attended...
Bravo to my friends at Dreamworks for this classy presentation that had tongues wagging. I arrived at the elegant Martinez Hotel at 8:45 pm to find a bustling red carpet and Jamie Foxx, Beyonce and the cast doing their thing.
Once inside, I was ushered into an intimate reception room with mannequins decked out in colorful costumes and wigs from the film. The key filmmakers were all in attendance, mingling with the crowd of press and tastemakers: writer-director Bill Condon, producer Larry Mark, sister costume designer Sharen Davis, sister choreographer Fatima Robinson, cinematographer Tobias Schiesser, and production designer John Myhre. I hung out with my old pal and hair stylist Kim Kimble, who now works with Beyonce.
When the crowd took their seats in the ballroom, there was a buzz of anticipation. Larry and Bill made brief introductions telling us to expect four scenes from the film that just wrapped production six weeks ago. Then the magic began.
First up, Jamie Foxx's Curtis Taylor hustles Danny Glover for The Dreamettes first gig. Eddie Murphy's James 'Thunder' Early only wants two girls, but when he sees the bubbly trio in their sweet orange dresses, he can't resist them all. Eddie belts out "Faking Your Way To The Top," with James Brown-like charisma that has the girls, especially Anika Noni Rose's Lorell, swooning. During the song, we are whisked from backstage at this first show to the the girls leaving their families to the tour bus to confident pros. By the end, they have all the right moves. Fantastic.
Second up is Jamie's Curtis telling the girls that they are leaving Thunder. No more backup. They're getting their own act. Jennifer Hudson's Effie kisses Curtis and proclaims her love. They are a couple and this is what she's been waiting for - her time to shine. But when Curtis tell the ladies that Deena will be singing lead to make the group more palatable for crossover, Effie loses it. This scene was my favorite.
If anyone had a question about the level of acting of one Ms.Jennifer Hudson, lay your concerns to rest. Sister girl BRINGS it in an understated moment of betrayal, she's giving you pure emotion and all heart. "What about what I want?" she pleads as we go into the song "Family." The last moments of the scene take place against a billowy white, brilliantly lit empty stage adjacent to the dressing rooms where the scene starts. Condon shows out with coverage so dynamic yet well-integrated into the drama of the moment that you barely notice they've broken out into song. Superb.
The showstopper for most of the audience was the third clip when Beyonce's Deena confronts her now husband Curtis in his office, telling him she doesn't want to star in a movie he's lined up. He sings "When I First Saw You," convincing her of his love and that he knows what's best or her. Beyonce is giving you TRANSCENDENT GLAMOUR in a fabulous Sharen Davis-designed black fitted pantsuit with high white ruffle collar and oversized fedora, tilted slightly over one heavily mascara-ed eye. Whew! Do it, Beyonce!
The song continues over flashes of Deena at various photo shoots, one jaw-dropping dress after another. In this scene, Deena/Beyonce is fully Rossified. Mahogany style. The hair. The bold makeup. The swagger. Exquisite. Finally, a closing scene with all the girls singing the title song. Tobias, the dp, takes the camera places we can't even imagine as we go from onstage with the girls into the audience and then literally into a star-filled night. Can't explain. Just trust me. Beautiful.
Condon gets back on stage at this point and introduces his team and cast. Beyonce, Anika and Jennifer looks glorious in flowing dresses and flawless makeup. Jamie cracks everyone up and compliments his Oscar-nominated director. Someone in the crowd yells out to Jamie, "Give him another, Oscar!" Jamie says that folks warned him about the Oscar curse but that after seeing the footage, "I ain't feeling it."
Finally, the director unveiled a surprise three minute exclusive trailer that even the cast hadn't seen. A sublime chronicle where we see the cast go from the '50s to '60s to '70s. We see love, hate, laughter, crying, success and failure. A terrifically edited and set against Jennifer Hudson's powerful rendition of "One Night Only." Breathtaking.
The lights went up to wild applause. The crowd and cast mingled in the small space with Hugh Jackman, Chris Tucker, Bruce Willis, Sir Ian McKellan, and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Everyone was buzzing. One journalist called it "intoxicating." I must agree. I'd never seen anything like it.
--AMD, Cannes. 5.20.06