When a pop star like Mariah Carey makes her movie debut, the question is a simple one: Can she act? The answer is yes and no. Unlike the famous range of her singing voice, Carey is a one-note actress. She’s able to project individual emotions effectively, but incapable of expressing more than one at a time, which means that her Billie Frank — the film’s central character — never really comes to life. Unfortunately, this is hardly the only problem with Glitter.
Screenwriter Kate Lanier, who scripted the Tina Turner biopic, What’s Love Got To Do With It?, and Detroit-born actor-turned-director Vondie Curtis Hall (Gridlock’d) have built this Frankenstein monster from the leftover clichés of dozens of show-business movies, but their primary model is that overwrought chestnut, A Star is Born. Billie Frank can rise only with the fall of the man who engineered her big break.
In Glitter (set primarily in 1983), the Svengali-sacrificial lamb is Julian “Dice” Black, an immensely influential New York club DJ and would-be record producer. Max Beesley, British actor (he played the famous rake in the BBC’s “Tom Jones”) and musician (Style Council, Brand New Heavies), seems to be embodying the lost Wahlberg brother here, a street-smart white boy riding the first crest of the hip-hop nation. Yet there’s something so genuine about Beesley’s performance that he props up the tenuous Carey.
As laughable as Glitter is in its wildly inconsistent portrayal of the music business, its biggest sin is in wasting the talents of a supporting cast loaded with actor-musicians (Da Brat, Tia Texada, Eric Benét, Ann Magnuson). The biggest casualty, of course, is Carey. This pretty cipher can’t project a fraction of the emotional depth provided in a scant 10 minutes by Isabel Gomes, who portrays the young Billie. It’s Gomes’ face, rippling with hope and pain, that resonates throughout Glitter. She’s the film’s wounded heart, its Judy Garland, a fragile and resilient girl who would grow up to be a woman crushed not by her talent, but her ceaseless need to please.
Read our 10/17/01 edition of "Reckless Eyeballing," where you'll find out what Mariah and Barbie have in common.
Visit the official Glitter Web site at glittermovie.com.
Serena Donadoni writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail her at email@example.com.