Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Actor Analysis: Jennifer Hudson

The Thespool will hold a Movie Gaga feature: Actor Analyses. In these analyses, Chandler and/or I will take a look at an actor or actress's career, mocking or praising as is due.

The honor of our first analysis is going to someone well acquainted with honors she doesn't deserve: Ms. Jennifer Hudson.

I'm not going to beat around the bush: Jennifer Hudson is a terrible actress.

She sings like an angel.

But I've seen elementary school plays with better acting than Ms. Hudson puts into her feature films. Remembering she's an Oscar winner makes me want to cry-- especially when I see those commercials she's doing for Weight Watchers and she can't even act like herself.

On one level, acting is becoming the character in the situation, ignoring the lights and cameras and dozens of people milling around or staring. Jennifer Hudson is incapable of this- you can actually see the wheels turning in her head. I hate that.

Dreamgirls (2006)

Jennifer got her big break on American Idol, then parleyed that success into a role in the movie Dreamgirls, based on the Broadway musical. Hudson played Effie White, a role that required her to make grumpy faces and sing.

And she really does sing well. But killer pipes does not a good actor make. Actors, for some reason, have trouble seeing that. Maybe it's appreciation for talent they don't have, or maybe they can't separate their appreciation for her vocal abilities from her skill as an actress. Whatever it is, she got an Oscar out of the deal. Over Cate Blanchett, no less.

Look, there's already an award show for talented singers. Keep your Grammy's out of my Academy Awards.

Speaking of awards, I should mention that it wasn't just actors blinded by the...sound, as it were. According to my count she won 21 other awards for the same performance, most of them being either Best Supporting Actress or Best Breakthrough Performance-type things.

Sex and the City (2008)

Next came the Sex and the City movie where she was as awkwardly shoved in as...Carrie Bradshaw's puns. What did you think I was going to say? Anyway, I don't even know why she was there other than to hide Big's emails to Carrie which, I'm sorry, but who tries to make up with the finacee they just left at the altar by email? We're supposed to believe this was the only way since Carrie got a new cell phone number. Never mind the fact that Carrie moved back into her old apartment, a place Big had gone to and land-line called a 100 times over the show's six seasons. Don't tell me Jennifer Hudson's role was necessary.

Unless someone realized that you could count the number of black Sex and the City characters on one hand. Yeah, I said it.

Fragments (2008)

Never heard of it, haven't seen it, don't intend to. Don't care.

The Secret Life of Bees (2008)

This book was cute. And popular. So a movie based on it was inevitable.

Right before the movie came out, though, Jennifer Hudson suffered an unimaginable tragedy when her estranged brother-in-law brutally murdered her mother, brother, and nephew. Critics were understandably reticent to criticize her performance in the wake of the horrific event.

I spent a long time on YouTube, too long, searching for a clip from a specific scene I wanted to embed here. I figured I'd be able to find it because it's the lead-up to one of the most important scenes in the movie, but whatever, it's better this way without the clip inflicted on you.

It's actually a pretty simple scene- Jennifer and Dakota are walking down a road talking. But remember what I said about seeing the wheels turning in Jennifer's head? It's so bad in this scene you can practically count each individual cog. The difference between the two is striking- Dakota's actually acting, while Jennifer's basically whispering to herself "I'm in a movie. Right now we're shooting a movie. Keep holding the makeshift spittoon with your arm at a 90 degree angle. Make sure to spit a lot so the audience knows you're chewing tobacco. Audience! This is a movie. We're filming a movie."

It's painful to watch.

Also worth noting, this was the last time she was nominated for any acting awards. And the nominations were all for Ensemble Casts. Just saying.

Winnie (2o11)

According to IMDb, J.H. starred in a Winnie Nelson biopic that did very little, and she did very little in it. The one external review listed on IMDb is from, by Christopher Campbell. Of Hudson's performance he writes,
Winnie has one great sequence, and by great I mean it’s at least given some time to play out, and we’re allowed to think about it. It’s really the least we could hope for in a significant drama about some of the most important historical events in the world during the 20th century. The sequence depicts Winnie’s own prison time, most of which was served in solitary confinement in order to break her spirit. It’s the first instance in the film where Hudson really seems to be acting rather than merely standing and reciting dialogue. Sure, she’s mostly staring blankly and chatting with ants, but I got the impression she really was trying hard to prove her Oscar is deserved.
From what I've seen of Jennifer I'm neither surprised or inclined to doubt Mr. Campbell's assessment.

What's Next for Ms. Hudson?

A role in the upcoming 3 Stooges movie. Something tells me the casting director's something of a stooge, as well.

Please, Jennifer, quit while you're ahead. You have a voice that I think, if I believed in such things, could reaffirm someone's faith in God. Do something with that instead of this acting mess.

Or spring for some lessons. You can afford it.

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