Prior to her recent mental breakdown, it was reported that pop singer Mariah Carey (1999's "The Bachelor
") put her full heart and soul into the making of "Glitter," a semi-autobiographical drama directed by Vondie Curtis Hall (1997's "Gridlock'd"). It's too bad she didn't also put in any discernible acting ability. In all fairness, she doesn't get much help from screenwriter Kate Lanier (1999's "The Mod Squad
"), who has penned "Glitter" into a very dumb, one-dimensional rags-to-riches tale that holds zero insight into the music industry, a topic Carey herself should know quite a bit about.
Taken away from her alcoholic, if loving, mother (Valarie Pettiford) as a child, never to see her again, Billie Frank (Mariah Carey) is now a budding young woman with a beautiful singing voice. Tired of performing back-up for a self-righteous, talentless diva, Billie has her entire life turned upside down when she meets popular DJ Julian Dice (Max Beesley), who believes she has what it takes to make it big in the music world. Before long, she has a record contract and finds her first single--a remake of the '80s dance hit "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On"--sitting at #1 for ten weeks straight. Instant fame, however, begins to distance Billie from her best friends, Louise (Da Brat) and Roxanne (Tia Texada), while her love life with Dice turns rocky.
In the occasional sequences where Billie performs her music, Mariah Carey suddenly seems right at home in the part, projecting both energy and class. Unfortunately, Carey sleepwalks through the biggest chunk of "Glitter," the part where, you know, she has to act. Carey constantly stumbles over her line readings and uncovers the fact that she is an amateur when it comes to movies. She always looks as if she's trying to hide herself behind the other cast members, a kiss of death when you are the star of the film and have to create a likable, sympathetic character. She's almost as lifeless as Madonna was in 2000's "The Next Best Thing
," and that's really saying a lot.
Carey can't take all of the blame. The writing is thin and sappy, the direction by Vondie Curtis Hall is stale, and the story is an oft-told one that wasn't exactly screaming to be recounted. The major offense of "Glitter" is that it's an incredible bore that goes nowhere real fast. Not helping matters is the picture's seemingly neverending running time of 106 minutes. It feels like twice that length.
"Glitter" also has a highly problematic timeline. Superfluously set in 1983 (despite Carey's very modern warblings), we are led to believe that the entire film takes place in a span of less than six months. In that small portion of time, Carey's Billie goes from being a complete unknown to someone who gets a record deal, shoots to the top of the Billboard charts, films music videos, and concludes with her performing at Madison Square Garden in front of an adoring, sold-out crowd of fans. This isn't just unrealistic; it's laughably clumsy storytelling.
British actor Max Beesley (2001's "Kill Me Later") fares better as Manhattanite DJ Dice, who becomes Billie's biggest supporter, as well as her lover. Beesley does just enough with his otherwise cliched role to make it a good one. As Billie's friends, rapper Da Brat and Tia Texada (2000's "Nurse Betty
") are so much more interesting than Carey that one of them in the central role might have helped the film's glacial pacing immeasurably. Meanwhile, Ann Magnuson (2001's "The Caveman's Valentine"), as Billie's publicist, annoying overacts. On a different plane from all her counterparts is Valarie Pettiford, who beautifully and poignantly plays Billie's troubled, estranged mother.
About as fresh as rancid Chinese food that has been stuck in the back of the refrigerator for several months, the only notable moments in "Glitter" are two separate scenes where the now-dearly departed World Trade Center sits prominently in the background, a tragic testament to how quickly famed buildings and thousands of lives can be taken away from us in an instant. Life is far too short to waste it on a motion picture as devoid of intelligence and entertainment value as "Glitter."
©2001 by Dustin Putman