Written by: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
It had to happen. When a discussion of terrible movies comes up, how could Mariah Carey's Glitter NOT get mentioned? CC2K's Kristen Lopez drew the short end of the stick on this one, and thus it was she was was compelled to sit through Mariah's "star" turn for April Fools' Week. Here are her observations.
A word from the nominator, Stella Artois:
With 17 number one hits, Mariah Carey is part of pop royalty in the music industry. But when this butterfly spread her wings and talent in the film industry, it was one big torture chamber filled to the brim with Glitter. I'd love to see someone rip Glitter to shreds, or challenge that it's a brilliant piece of cinematic art. I just hope they come out of this alive and not feeling as pathetic as Mariah's character Billie Frank.
Don’t Blame Mariah for What Doesn’t Glitter
by Kristen Lopez
Breaking into movies is hard for any aspiring actor, yet if you happen to be a singer, your odds of success are greatly improved. Singers have a long history of attempting the transition into movie stardom, starting with Elvis and Frank Sinatra and eventually segueing into Prince and Madonna in the 80s. Thanks to these pioneers, Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, Beyonce and Mandy Moore all have star credits, and a few scant years ago our theaters were blessed with Ms. Mariah Carey’s Glitter. I remember that when this movie first came out, all of my friends were (for some reason) very excited to see it, but I stuck my nose up at them; my movie palate was way too refined to go watch such a throwaway fluff piece. Yet just one year later, I was drawn to Britney’s Crossroads like a crack addict looking for a fix. This proves two things: first, there is an undeniable allure in watching modern pop icons attempting to express themselves as actors, and second, karma does exist, in that I was forced to watch Glitter for April Fools’ Week.
Glitter focuses on the story of Billie Frank (Carey), who suffers from abandonment issues after her boozy mother was forced to give her up and never came looking for her. Going through life with her best friends Louise (Da Brat) and Roxanne (Tia Texada), Billie catches the eye of a shady music producer named Timothy (Oscar-Nominee Terrence Howard, who would just as soon have you pretend you don’t recognize him). Timothy decides to give the girls a job singing back up to his girlfriend Sylk (Padma Lakshmi), who is terrible. Hot DJ Julian Dice (Max Beesley) eventually convinces Billie to strike out on her own, becoming her boyfriend and manager. Thus starts off the rise of Billie Frank, and the fall of good taste.
Given how low my expectations were going into this movie, I’m surprised by how disappointed I was in it nonetheless. The first hour is hands-down the worst hunk of crap I’ve ever been subjected to, and I subject myself to a lot. Where it all goes wrong is how much director Vondie Curtis Hall tries to squeeze into the first act. Immediately you’re introduced to Billie’s mother Lillian – who is channeling Whitney Houston in her Bobby Brown years. The only bond that exists between mother and daughter is music, which is especially surprising given the awful dub job done with the child playing young Billie. Once Billie’s mother tries to burn their house down (!),the young girl is shipped to an orphanage. Clearly at this point, the filmmakers realized that character depth was not nearly as important as getting Carey’s face on screen, because Billie’s entire life from foster care to the present is whipped through with the help of montages. (Since we are supposed to remember Billie’s “harsh” beginnings when we smile for her successes later in the film, this omission feels especially egregious.) Suddenly, we are in 1983 hustling and flowing with Terrence Howard. A Singin’ in the Rain-type voice dubbing scheme is then introduced almost immediately before it’s dropped, and before you know it Julian Dice enters with a hilarious burst of fuzzy slow motion effects.
If you have gotten this far, then congratulations! You have made it through the exposition, and can now begin the “plot” portion of Glitter. The first thing you’ll see is the rocky and abusive relationship between Billie and Julian, a completely worthwhile scene except for the fact that it has nothing to do with the story at all, and features nothing about the music business that the movie is supposed to be about. You’ll then take another side road to the dusty subplot of Billie searching for her mother. In fact, you had better buckle your seatbelt, since the movie takes thirty different routes, and you might hurt yourself trying to figure out just where the hell you are.
The high point of the movie (if you sit through the entire thing, you might as well be treated to a few good minutes, right?) comes with the arrival of Eric Benet (aka the former Mr. Halle Berry). This relationship is actually sort of sweet, and the two of them even sing a great duet together. However, a movie with this many bad decisions could never be trusted to stick with a story that works, and before you know it we’re back with Julian Dice for an ending that is supposed to leave us in tears. You WILL cry…but more in gratitude that this suck-fest has finally come to an end.
Despite this utter trainwreck of a movie, I actually think (Oh please God don’t let me get flamed to eternity for admitting this…) that Mariah Carey is a pretty decent actress. Unlike some of her pop-diva brethren (sistren?), she exhibited a natural flow that did at times transcend the heinous dialogue. Glitter might have been Carey’s brainchild, but most of the fault for its dismal failure lies with the screenwriter; a stronger script MIGHT have made this a halfway decent movie. Having said this, however, Mariah is no innocent victim here. Her influence is felt throughout the movie, starting with the ridiculous outfits she wears throughout. Everything seems to be picked out solely so she looks fuckable at all times, and he make-up always accentuates her positives, even when she’s supposed to be poor and miserable. Also, she must have had editorial control over her love scene, since we focused so much on her ass that it started to feel like a proctologic exam. It’s almost as though, if we acknowledge how perfect she appears, we’ll overlook how shitty the movie really is.
Special mention must also be given to the character of Julian Dice, played by Max Beesley. Beesley could possibly be the worst actor ever to “grace” the screen. He looks like a combination of Matt Damon and Ewan McGregor (or, to be more accurate, if Damon and McGregor had twins, he’d be the Danny DeVito, garbage half), and he talks like Mark Wahlberg during his Funky Bunch days. He is a literal and figurative mouth-breather who prances throughout this movie in leather pants and a wife beater. His character starts out abusive, ends up clingy, and I wanted to punch both character and actor in the face the entire time he was on screen.
Carey also has two friends, but they are about as cardboard as friends come. They’re only used when convenient, and don’t add to anything at the end. My main issue was how long they waited to film the scenes with Da Brat, because every time they had a scene with her she had gained at least 10 pounds. It doesn’t help that the clothes the production crew makes her wear consist of something she picked up off her living room floor.
In conclusion, Glitter is not a total loss. Just fast-forward to the final thirty minutes or so, and mute the screen whenever Max Beesley appears, you’re pretty much good to go. Otherwise, you take your life and sanity in your hands.
Author: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Kristen Lopez is the editor-in-chief of CC2K and a freelance pop culture essayist. Her work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. When she’s not burning down Film Twitter she runs two podcasts, the female-centric film show Citizen Dame, and the classic film-themed Ticklish Business.