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movie review out of 4 Movie Review: Glitter

Starring: Mariah Carey, Max Beesley
Director: Vondie Curtis-Hall
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 100 Minutes
Release Date: September 2001
Genres: Drama, Music, Romance

*Also starring: Padma Lakshmi, Terrence DaShon Howard, Eric Benet, Ann Magnuson, Tia Texada

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

In 2001 you'll hear it told,
This movie "Glitter" is not gold.

If the Bard is watching the screen from high above the clouds, he'd probably say "I told you so!" "Glitter," which yields more unintentional humor than any other movie since Paul Verhoeven's "Showgirls," is a sappy, soapy, songfest which, if the film were a debut for Mariah Carey might have ended her career before it ever started. Her large public would have been thwarted, missing the mellifluous tones of the person whom Billboard Magazine in 1999 called The Artist of the Decade. Cheryl L. West's story is subverted by some of scripter Kate Lanier's dialogue, a sample of which comes from Ms. Carey's character's introduction to a large audience at Madison Square Garden, "Do not take your friend for granted: you'll never know when you'll lose him." Featuring scenes borrowed from the naive romances of the 1950's, Vondie Curtis-Hall's film is a fictionalized homage to Mariah Carey, one of pop song's most celebrated vocalists of the nineties who was responsible for selling 140 million albums and singles, earning 84 gold, platinum and multi- platinum certifications.

Mariah Carey, who is physically as endowed as is her voice, fills the screen in virtually every scene in the role of Billie Frank, who at the age of eleven or so is abandoned by her mother Lillian (Valarie Pettiford), a traumatic event which causes Billie to be mistrustful of the kindness of strangers. Director Curtis-Hall introduces young Billie (Isabel Gomes) observing her mom's performance in a night club, shyly joining her in a song before a respectful but small audience. When her mother is fired and financial problems loom, Billie is turned over to a social services agency, later attracting the attention of a second-rate producer, Timothy Walker (Terrence Howard). Walker is pushed aside by popular DJ Julian Dice (Max Beesley), who persuades her to turn her production contract over to him. Little does Dice realize that his own coup will be topped by some major talent in the industry, forcing this handsome young man--who has become her lover--to surrender his find to the big guys.

Filmed by Geoffrey Simpson in Toronto and New York, with some stunning footage from (sigh) the World Trade Center, the chic Soho neighborhood and Madison Square Garden, "Glitter" is awash with Terence Blanchard's score, featuring so many songs (performed by talent including Mariah Carey's own "All my Life," "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On," and "Loverboy" plus an assortment of pop favorites by Stevie Wonder, The Strikers, Zapp, Whodini and others) that we in the audience are virtually MTV'd rather than able to enjoy whole pieces sung passionately by Ms. Carey. "Glitter" is not unlike George Cuckor's 1954 semimusical "A Star is Born,"about a doomed Hollywood star couple featuring Judy Garland as a performer on the way up while James Mason is on his way down. While Mariah Carey's songs simply cannot compel like the classics of Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin and the script bears none of the quality of Moss Hart's for the Cuckor classic, the fatal flaw is the series of borrowed and banal interplays between Billie and her first real boyfriend, Dice. Watch especially for the poorly directed scene featuring Billie's walking out on Dice after the former has gone through a jealous tantrum and particularly for an unintentionally laughable juxtaposition of their getting together, as Dice and Billie, now living apart, seem to be communicating by ESP, the estranged couple separately composing a song as though they were in the same room.

Max Beesley is the one standout performer, working courageously with a fatuous script while Mariah Carey--who insists that her rendition of Billie Frank is only marginally autobiographical--acts throughout like a wide-eyed tourist who has just arrived from Kansas for a week in the Big Apple rather than a world-class singer who climaxes her career as the star performer at Madison Square Garden.

Copyright 2001 Harvey Karten

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