It's not a perfect movie, and once I escaped the theater and the spell cast by Jennifer Hudson, I thought of how much in the film is skipped, avoided, or unsaid. Yeah, you know I generally don't enjoy rushing through major plot points, but I'm not sure it really hurts here. Too many scenes with Beyonce's and Jamie Foxx's characters falling for each other would have dragged the film down - there's something refreshing about how much is simply done in shorthand, as if the filmmaker acknowledges the audience's intelligence at being able to put the pieces together. I didn't really mind any of that, which is unusual. It can be a little exhausting: you're on the fast train and you get to your destination still energized and engaged, so does it matter what you missed blurring past you in the window?
Jennifer Hudson's role is so dynamic, so emotional, that it is easily the heart of the film. I'm not knocking her talent, but the material is really strong and I can't imagine it not taking center stage. She just knocks it right out of the park. There are a few moments when it's almost painful to watch her, she is so raw and intense. Even Beyonce couldn't shine bright enough to tip the balance - the musical is designed to make you root for Effie even as you manage to feel sympathy, and then respect, for Deena.
Of course there is the whole meta experience of watching Hudson lose her chance at stardom because she's not thin or white-acting enough (a theory which only falls apart slightly when you realize she lost on "American Idol" the season that Fantasia, another woman without mainstream pop appeal, won.) And of course, there is Beyonce playing the lead singer of a group of three women, one of whom is replaced by someone named Michelle, the same name as a once controversial replacement in Destiny's Child. (The audience tittered when her name was announced.) You also can't help but imagine that Beyonce feels a bit like Deena (the pop star who may be more manufactured than talented) with all the attention that Jennifer Hudson is getting for this film. (I did read one interview where she claimed that she would've wanted to play the Effie role, but couldn't gain enough weight. Ouch. Hopefully that was an anomaly, because I think in general Beyonce seems like a talented and level-headed young woman.) Of course, to mix it up even more, Beyonce is being positioned in the lead actress category, and Jennifer in the supporting. Hmmm. Jennifer Holliday, the Broadway Effie, won a Tony for Best Lead Actress.
I can see why everybody keeps talking about how great Eddie Murphy is. I think it's the surprise at seeing a brilliant comedian able to successfully tackle a dramatic role (with singing and dancing!) I liked him, but maybe I'd like his performance more if I didn't remember when he was in better roles than "Dr. Doolittle 2" and "Daddy Day Care." I did really like the actor playing C.C., who turns out to have been on "American Dreams" (which I never watched) and, more interestingly, played a Power Ranger. (The green one, in case you are curious.)
This is definitely the kind of movie you can watch over and over, because it's about the music, and the more you watch the more you want to hear it again. Which is another way of saying I will likely see it in the theater again sometime.