Movies: Jennifer Hudson

Dreamgirls

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It has been sung countless times, indelibly by Jennifer Holliday in the original Broadway Dreamgirls but also by aspiring divas in amateur nights around the globe. Then Jennifer Hudson, as Effie in the Dreamgirls film, sings And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going, and it's as if this scorched anthem of desperate love had been written for her--no, as if it was pouring spontaneously out of Effie's pride and hurt. One of those rare movie moments with the spine-chilling immediacy of a sensational live performance, it's great theater on film.

Dreamgirls, a fable inspired by the Supremes, describes the suppression of genius (Effie's vocal fire) in favor of glamour (the velvet look and sound of Deena, played by Beyoncé Knowles). There's loads of star power, with Eddie Murphy strutting and Jamie Foxx stalking. But it's still Hudson's show. In her first movie she goes beyond Beyoncé, acing the acting scenes and proving she's a natural actress the camera adores.

Hudson is no stranger to show-biz melodrama. As a contender in American Idol's third season, she was cut, reprieved, and then made it to the final seven. Now, at 25, she has a record deal and a batch of critics' awards, and she's a cinch for an Oscar nomination. Can Hollywood producers find other suitable roles for this star-is-born singer-actress? They'd better, because if talent and charisma have anything to do with it, she is not going.