- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2001

The trailers for "Glitter" suggested a plump sitting duck, one of those whose defenses against sarcastic ridicule are destined to be nonexistent. A chronicle of the professional and private woes of a pop singer called Billie Frank, this is someone's ga-ga misconception of a flattering movie debut for Mariah Carey, not exactly a super-charged instrument of glamorous pathos. The movie proves as defective as anticipated.

However, the incentive for scorning it has diminished in the wake of extraneous events: the star's highly publicized nervous breakdown, which prompted a brief postponement of the original opening date (Aug. 31); and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, which have overwhelmed and rendered trivial the fictional contexts of the vast majority of movies likely to open for the next year or so.

Despite its inescapably trifling show business preoccupations, "Glitter" has one attribute that may be useful to new movies confronting altered audience preoccupations: It's a period story. A prologue establishes Billie's precocious singing skills while she shares a nightclub platform with her mother Lillian (Valerie Pettiford), a jazz singer so weakened by booze that she tends to stall in mid-number, prompting an appeal to her little girl to bail out the act. After burning down their house while sleeping and smoking simultaneously, Lillian is denied custody of her child and disappears from the plot for quite a while, leaving Billie to the mercy of an apparently nice orphanage. Miss Carey enters as the 20-ish Billie, contorting in leopard-skin costume at a disco club, circa 1983, along with two brash, comic-relief pals, Da Brat as Louise and Tia Texada as Roxy, a Latin firecracker who obviously outstrips Miss Carey in personality.

These three are hired as backup for a weak-voiced vamp called Silk (Isabel Gomes), the exotic pet project of an opportunistic producer named Timothy Walker (Terrence Howard), who sneakily substitutes Billie's voice in recording sessions to beef up his decorative headliner. An allegedly fashionable disco disc jockey called Dice (Max Beesley) is hip to the fraud and agrees to pay Walker 100 grand to liberate Billie a deal he evidently welshes on, in order to provoke drastic reprisals necessary to end the movie on notes of heartbreak and loss.

Nevertheless, Dice and Billie become lovers as well as professional collaborators. Not that Billie seems to need mentors of any sort: as girl or young woman, a single wailing note from her throat induces instant nirvana in every listener.

The ultimate tribute to her hypnotic prowess: a Madison Square Garden concert sells out in a mere 20 minutes, a world record for all I know.

Miss Carey's prominent cheekbones and expansive smile should be photogenic assets. But she's so untutored as an actress that the impression she leaves is one of self-defeating passivity and amateurism.

The filmmakers seem to ridicule her by inserting a sequence in which a gushy movie producer approaches Billie with the following salutation: "I'd like to put you in a movie. Have you thought about acting?" Ouch.

The movie itself is formulated for utter foolishness, suggesting as it does that Billie's golden voice is a self-sufficient key to success. It may fall a bit short of preventing private unhappiness, but the context makes everything except divadom look expendable. Billie doesn't seem all that haunted when mom, Louise, Roxy and then Dice become discarded fixtures of her life. Indeed, a vividly responsive and simpatico sensibility appears to elude her completely.

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