More noise than signal


This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site,

There are two moments in the risible Mariah Carey vehicle Glitter that approach respectability, which I’d like to get out of the way before they are removed from the face of the planet by theOneliner Vitriol Cannon’s scorched earth policy. The first five odd minutes feature a young lass Billie Frank who will eventually grow into Mariah, but played by Isabel Gomes. She’s sitting in a low-rent bar watching her mother Lillian (Valarie Pettiford) singing, and is eventually brought onto the stage for a duet. This is decent, because these folks can actually sing. Later, a fully grown Billie makes a video helmed by a pompous Russian director whose vision for Carey’s usual bland R ‘n’ B caterwauling doesn’t tie in with Billie’s or any other sane person on the planet.

The rest of it is pish.

The story revolves around Billie, and her story seems to want to hint at drawing parallels with Mariah’s rise to fame but without committing to saying anything about her. Contrast this with 8 Mile, where Eminem may not be playing himself but he’s clearly drawing on his own experiences and life to add an air of authenticity to his Rabbit character that not only compensates for his unpolished acting skills but also makes a strong personal statement on his own real-life character. Glitter is so desperate to avoid tarnishing in any way Mariah’s squeaky clean, safe-as-houses image that it fails to provide any interesting events to focus on or any insight into what Mariah’s life is like or how she feels about any of it. As a result the film is as bland and uninteresting as I find the woman’s music, poorly acted, clumsily scripted and feeling so atrociously fake that it’s little more than a shoddy live action Cinderella update.

Billie’s mother struggles to raise her and to hold down her job, mainly as a result of some unspecified drug addiction that’s later revealed. She occasionally goes cap in hand to a disinterested father who throws some hush money in her general direction while wanting nothing to do with Billie. This out of hand rejection apparently has no noticeable effect on Billie, certainly none that’s dwelt on. Areas like this are what make watching Glitter so frustrating for a non-fan. Potentially interesting areas exploring the family relationship dynamics are ignored or glossed over in favour of more glossy close ups of Mariah to skirt around any controversy that may be caused even though it’s not actually Mariah the film is talking about. Grrr.

Eventually Billie’s mother’s drug habits end in tragedy as she falls asleep while smoking. Their house is razed, although they both emerge unscathed. As a result Billie is taken away from her mother and placed into a home. How does this affect Billie? She seems to cry a little then write a song about it later on, which would seem to be getting off lightly given the enormity of the event. Again, potentially interesting, again ignored, again grrr. She makes a few friends in record time, with Roxanne (Tia Texada) introducing herself and Puerto Rican and Louise (Da Brat) as African American. They want to know Billie’s heritage, she replies as ‘mixed’. They then go off being friends and the narrative jumps to a grown Billie played by the Carey Bare we know and tolerate. How does growing up as a ‘half caste’ in a society where racism still unfortunately runs rife? How did it affect Billie? How did it affect Mariah? We’ll never know as it’s all glossed over. Perhaps it wasn’t as big a deal as I expect it, but it’s never presented as anything other than a bowl of cherries which seems hollow. Yet again potentially interesting, yet again ignored, yet again grrr.

The reason all of this is being lightly skipped over is obvious. None of this features Mariah, which is the presumably the reason the majority of people would want to see this. It’s unfortunate for any non-fan that there is no reason to watch the rest of the film. Having ignored any possibly interesting concepts in the opening ten minutes the remainder shirks controversy at all possible turns as it charts Billie’s largely uneventful rise to the top. Her friends and she are quickly rescued from a career of dancing at a club by record producer Timothy Walker (Terrence Dashon Howard) to sing backup vocals for the horrendously untalented singer Sylk (Padma Lakshmi). She is quickly rescued from a career of singing backup vocals by tip-top DJ of the year DJ Dice (Max Beesley). He recognises that Laurence has been ghosting Mariah’s vocals for Sylk’s and thinks she’s capable of better things, buying out her contract for the extortionate sum of $100000. It should be noted that for being the best DJ in the world Dice is utterly incapable of mixing tunes. Still, it is set in the mid eighties, so perhaps beat matching hadn’t been invented then. I’ll ask Pete Tong, he ought to know having been around since the dawn of time.

Dice and Billie quickly churn out a demo, which a major label snaps up in short order giving them a lucrative contract. If you’ve ever wondered how to ascend to the top of the record industry the lesson from Glitter is clear – it’s all handed to you on a fucking platter. There’s no struggle, no hardship, no hitches, no problems. Her first single goes straight to number one and stays there for ten consecutive weeks and everybody immediately loves Billie on first meeting her, the press love her, everything is a bowl of cherries. Perhaps this wouldn’t seem so conveniently false if Mariah was displaying any sort of charisma. She doesn’t, she merely sits around smiling and trying to look a little more animated than a Barbie doll. There’s no sense of a voyage, no reason to invest any emotion in Billie’s character. The film, as you’ve been expecting from the outset is nothing more than a showcase and extended video for Mariah’s singing talents.

Dice and Billie eventually succumb to Cupid’s arrow and move in, with Billie’s career soon overshadowing Dice. Dice is kicked off production duties on Billie’s album by the record label who decide that everything sound the same. Ah, the first hints of realism. While Dice is supportive of Billie’s career despite not being directly involved in it, one day he wakes up to find his ‘good guy / bad guy’ switch inadvertently flipped. Sudden attacks of jealousy manifest themselves and he alienates Billie’s friends. Strangely the elements of this are present and foreshadowed in the appropriate places but the changeover is too sudden for it to be believable. I don’t think it’s Beesley’s fault as such, despite having a limited role he’s doing the best he can with it and the astonishingly stilted lines he’s given. His accent is pretty variable, but that’s a minor detail in this intricate masterwork of ineptitude. The scriptwriters have to take the blame, with everything just happening conveniently rather than believably to set up the next performance.

Essentially they split up, wail and gnash their separate teeth before realising they still love each other before a calamity keeps them apart. After unsuccessfully trying to track down her mother earlier Social Services suddenly find her to provide a convenient moment to end the film on. The sheer contrivances that the script throws at you every other minute really destroys this as a film, in fact so much as to stop it being a film. We are given no reason to care about the plight of any of the characters and for the most part there isn’t even a plight. It’s merely a soulless promotional tool for Mariah.

Frankly, that’s all it’s aiming for and all it achieves. The only way to judge it properly then is as a critique of Mariah’s vocal talents, which is as subjective as it’s possible to be. If you’ve been living under a rock for the last few decades Mariah shot to fame on the basis seemingly of looking pretty and being able to hold a tune, and made utterly bland and lifeless lightweight R ‘n’ B / pop tunes ever since. Eventually most people got sick of her and her star started to fade, hence this film. I don’t think much of her at all, her tunes being the audio equivalent of beige. Unlikely to offend too many, but guaranteed not to excite many either. Hence, for me at least it fails as a pop promo.

If you have the temerity to judge this as a film then there’s a whole world of hurt waiting for you. The above text lists the main, critical ship sinking flaws but there’s a barrage of more minor irritations that spike nails into the lifeboats as well. Frankly I’ve little inclination to get into them, but lets just say the Carey can’t act worth tuppence, Da Brat and Tia Texada have little to do other than cheer from the sidelines, Terrence Dashon Howard is ineffective in his role as a supposedly believable gangsta hardcase, the record company seems to be run by indecisive people unsure whether to be supportive or dictatorial in management style, whoever wrote Dice’s personality polarizer into the script ought to be shot, while we’re at it shoot the choreographer as everyone dances like an electrocuted epileptic, success comes far, far too easily for Billie, Vondie Curtis-Hall’s direction is lackadaisical and his editing style annoying, the fashions even by eighties styles are unbelievable garish and have no business in a modern picture and any serious issues are utterly ignored which is criminal.

Simply put, unless you’re a fan of Carey you won’t get any joy out of this. It’s not quite as appalling as Crossroads, but it’s certainly in the same rank-awful ball park with Honest and Swept Away watching from the sidelines. Perhaps in future it’s be best to check if singers can actually act before building films round them.