OK! Another musical hits the site! I’m happy to see that our site is one of the few that embrace bad musicals and musical-wannabes like today’s subject, Glitter. Sure, robots and giant moths and hippies are common themes here, as well as at other sites, but Jabootu’s wingspan covers so much more. And is there a better place to find overwrought acting, bad dancing and braindead scriptwriting than in a bad musical? I sure don’t think so. Going into this, you’d think that the only possible plus they could find would be Mariah’s singing. I hate it, but she is popular. However, as we’ll see, they even get that wrong.
Carey came from a musical family. Her mother was an opera singer. Reading the lore of Wikipedia, we discover that she started as the backup singer for Puerto Rican crooner Brenda K. Starr in the ’80s. (I don’t feel compelled to do a lot of background research on our subject.) Starr, as a favor, gave a demo tape of Mariah’s work to Columbia Records executive Tommy Mottola at a party. He liked it or, given his mercenary proclivities, heard an opportunity to fleece the suckers. Mottola got Mariah a contract and provided the prefabricated industry hype necessary to launch a career primarily based on looks rather than talent. Her first album, imaginatively titled Mariah Carey, yielded the plastic fruit of four number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100. Subsequent album-sized ladles of treacle were titled Emotions, Daydreams, Buttlerfly, Rainbow, Glitter and Charmbracelet. (Not an oeuvre you’d mistake for, say, the back catalog of Slayer or Metallica. Journey maybe.) Oh, and there was a Christmas album in there as well, entitled Merry Christmas. A music critic back then called Mariah “a vibrant breath of fresh air!”
That critic was wrong. Lest you forget, Mariah combines stilted half-witted high-school blathering sentimentality with the musical prowess of a yelping Muppet, and then adds a yo-yo of voice with such a total lack of restraint as to make Paul “Bono” Hewson blush. Her lyrics are cornpone piffle that Yanni wouldn’t include in his liner notes. The music is blander than a vending machine brownie. And have you ever seen one of her videos? It doesn’t matter which one; they’re all the same—her hair blowing in the breath of off-screen fans, her lip-synching some ersatz drivel and the canned voice warbling back and forth like the needle on a California earthquake detector, her head cocked down and a little sideways, while looking up with big blinky eyes, attempting both demure and come-hither looks at the same time. And she thinks this is cute.
Well, it isn’t. Mariah is pure Productâ„¢: a doe-eyed histrionic vanity machine whose piped-in crooning consistently sabotages whatever scraps of tranquility remain whenever I’m pushing a shopping cart past screaming toddlers. I despise her ‘singing’ with an unforgiving Book-of-Deuteronomy, coal-black intensity that would make her head spin like a White House press secretary if she knew of it. Minnie Ripperton was a novelty act; it was Mariah Carey who seemed to invent that caterwauling which now seems to be the norm for popular R&B singers. Gone are the days of actual singing—now we’re bludgeoned with meaningless demonstrations of tuneless vocal range, which would have previously only been used to demonstrate distress when the werewolf appeared in the girls’ dormitory. After “Vision of Love” went to #1 in 1990, I never again checked out the latest charts. It no longer mattered. And it just keeps going; she was back on the charts in 2005. Who keeps buying her stuff? They must have gone through years of therapy to be convinced Mariah has anything listenable to offer.
Naturally, my sister loved her stuff. (We used to have “stereo wars” wherein we would attempt to blast each other with volume until parental invective or RA threats intervened—her Mariah and Madonna pitted against my Garbage, No Doubt and Smashing Pumpkins. But I had the last laugh—now that she’s older Budweiser, Maddy gets upset when I bring up her Mariah past, whereas I listened to “I’m Only Happy When It Rains” just this morning while dressing for work with no guilt whatsoever.) And while I personally can’t stand Carey’s music, it’s undeniable that she was—and remains—for many an immensely popular performer.
But, as these things tend to happen, she prepared to make the jump onto the Big Screen. And thus, failing to see Madonna slip beneath the quicksand of celluloid ineptitude, her next stop was Hollywood. Mariah Carey made her screen debut in The Bachelor. I never saw it. Paul Tatara, some reviewer for CNN, said she played “an opera star with a histrionic vocal style but (who) can’t act her way out of a parking ticket. The casting is letter perfect, although the ‘can’t act’ part impairs Carey’s entire performance.”
The working title for Glitter was All That Glitters…. (Which would have been more appropriate.) It was released on September 20, 2001. No one saw it, partially because the country was preoccupied with other matters. (And proving that, if you look hard enough, you can generally find a scintilla of silver lining in even the darkest events.) But mostly because it’s a leftover casserole of dozens of show-business movies, the primary source being the premise of that overripe vehicle, A Star is Born: The star can only rise with the fall of the man who brokered her success.
The movie premiered in only 1,196 theaters and was the eleventh highest-grossing movie over its opening weekend, taking in just $2.4 million. In addition, Glitter went over with critics and audiences like a conga line of naked gay communists in Hillary Clinton masks yodeling “Y.M.C.A.” while cutting through a Memorial Day ceremony at a Marine Corps post. TV Guide called Glitter a “butt-numbing exercise in tedium”â€“and that from a ‘zine devoted to helping you slay time like a prison lifer and chock full of articles so boring they could put a title attorney to sleep. Financially, the movie fell on its face. The Internet Movie Database lists Glitter‘s budget at an estimated $22 million smackeroos. Its total worldwide theatrical take was just over 5 million.
Glitter is so bad that no one escaped the pointing fingers. Even the normally-staid Wall Street Journal expressed its amazement at the financial recklessness of releasing such a movie, asking “How could a major studio—in this case 20th Century Fox—put its name on a production with a dim-bulb, tone-deaf script that piles howler on howler?” As professional athletes like to say, the movie has brought home its hardware. It enjoys a 7% approval rating on the TomatoMeter at Rottontomatoes.com and a whopping 14 “Extreme dislike or disgust” score at Metacritic.com. It was nominated for five Razzies, including Worst Actress, Worst Screenplay, Worst Screen Couple, Worst Supporting Actor, Worst Director and Worst Picture (Freddy Got Fingered won that year. I can’t seem to escape that movie.) Mariah took home the Worst Actress award. (Probably not literally.) It was nominated for Worst ‘Musical’ of the Razzies’ First 25 Years, along with Xanadu and Can’t Stop the Music!, and lost only to From Justin to Kelly. The Stinkers nominated it for Worst Onscreen Couple, Worst Song (winning for “Loverboy”), Worst Actress (winning with more ballots than all four of the other nominated actresses combined), and Worst Film (where it polled second only to that Charybdis of sewage, Freddy Got Fingered). And, for what it’s worth, it’s currently tied with six other movies for 14th place in the Internet Movie Database’s “Bottom 100” list.
Mariah apparently wasn’t all that happy with the results either. Almost certainly the mental breakdowns were calculated to generate ‘buzz’ about the movie. (Sadly, the ‘b’ and the ‘u’ didn’t show.) Despite the naked phoniness of this particular ploy, when I think of the phrase “Drama Queen” the first person (that I’m not related to) that pops into my mind is Mariah Carey. When people saw though this ploy, she tried another dodge, saying the film “started out as a concept with substance, but it ended up being geared to 10-year-olds. It lost a lot of grit … I kind of got in over my head.”
“Over my head”?! In this movie? You’d be more likely to get in over your head in a dog dish! OK, I’ll calm down. Let’s seeâ€¦how about a look at the DVD case? On the front is a large picture of Mariah, her hair blowing in the wind, her arms raised, apparently in mid-step of some routine, her patented one-strap showing a lot of racy shoulder. Below is the tagline: “In music, she found her dream, her loveâ€¦herself.” (I dared my step-brother Dustin to say that tagline out loud; he got a panicky look in his eyes and flatly refused.) Pushing two more buttons, below are a duo of smaller pictures: Mariah kissing some guy who looks like he’s about 14 in one corner and Mariah and two friends returning from shopping with these dreadful matching gold pant set outfits. (Singing! Dancing! Romance! Dressing like mob wives!) Inside the case are the scene titles for the scenes you can select. A few are merely song titles like “Didn’t Mean to Turn You On” (a song about a DVD player holding this DVD, perhaps?) and “I Want You” (â€¦to turn off said DVD player, perhaps?) all being from the soundtrack album Glitterâ€¦aka Caveat Emptor. One particularly tempting scene, entitled “End Credits”, also lists the song that’s ladled over them, “Lead the Way”—apparently leaving off the last half of the title, “Out of this Damned Theatre!”
On the back, another picture of Mariah, this time at the microphone and two smaller ones of her with two different guys. The caption: “Billie Frank is a talented young singer struggling to make it big in New York City. With plenty of will and determination, a voice like an angel, and the help of a handsome DJ, she will quickly learn that the roller coaster ride to success is as tedious as it is glamorous.” Whoopsâ€¦I meant to type “â€¦as treacherous as it is glamorous.” Sorry. Whoaâ€¦look at thisâ€¦something laudatory from an actual, recognizable source: “Glitter fits Mariah Carey like one of her skin-tight gowns” says Kevin Thomas of the LA Times, apparently after chugging all the bongwater from Simi Valley to San Bernardino. The rest of the blurb manages to fit in words like “powerful,” “unforgettable” and “sensational” even though this movie manages to be further from these words than the Straits of Magellan are from the Magellanic Cloud.
I watched this with two friends, Cissy and Rebecca. Not much to report—although it’s mildly interesting to note that while we started the movie with much silly singing and laughter, our initial mirth quickly gave way to a stultifying ennui so austerely subterranean I was left using the Shift/F7 function in Word to dredge up adequate adjectives to describe it. Oof. What a bore. Here goesâ€¦
And nowâ€¦our Feature Presentation!
We begin in a seedy nightclub. A tall, bedraggled middle-aged woman with what looks like bad bedhead is performing a torch song to a crowd of townies. This, we discover, is Billie’s mother, a fact made known to us when she singles out her daughter at the bar—”My girl. Gonna be a big star one day!”—and summons her up to the stage. Our first shot of Little Billie—Mariah’s alter-ego for this movie—is that of a doe-eyed waif with frizzy hair. We first spy her drinking a glass of milk at the bar, with a bit of a milk mustache—got celluloid claptrap?—which, I suppose, is to underscore her innocence. After being called out by her mom, Little Billie shyly approaches the stage, dolefully looks up at her Mom, has a microphone thrust into her hands—and immediately begins belting out a duet at full volume with a dubbed-voice from someone at least five years older while a Murph & the Magic Tones-type band dithers along in the background. This sounds like a Las Vegas lounge act. (Performed at the Suxor, perhaps.) Together, they lip-sync out some saccharine number apparently called “Turn Me Loose.” (Thirty seconds in and I’m already sporting lumps from the Symbolism Sledgehammer.) The crowd is impressed at the natural talent and claps and cheers at the end.
Next we see the pair strolling outside a row of swanky townhouses. Approaching one and knocking, they introduce us to Little Billie’s apparent father, as a white guy opens the door milliseconds after the knock and scolds Billie’s Mom (who is black) that he told her never to come here. She asks for money. He hands her a wad of bills and shoos them off. The camera lingers on sad Little Billie as the Piano of Compassion plinks out some hesitant, heartfelt notes. The kid playing Little Mariahâ€¦erâ€¦Billie in these scenes simply can’t act. In fact, she’s so stilted that I’m surprised George Lucas didn’t pick her up to be Jake Lloyd’s older sister. She’s apparently been instructed to look cute in an Olivia Twist urchin sort of way, complete with ragamuffin tousled hair and Precious Moments wide eyes. (Future Eva—in a surprising and almost-certainly unintended way, this actually assists in movie continuity as Mariah herself, as we’ll discover soon enough, cannot act at all.)
So, Little Billie is the daughter of an apparent one-night stand between a cheatin’ heartless professional dude and a burnt-out lounge singer. Oh, the pathos. And, wow, Mama Mariah is pretty darn ignorant of the legal system if this is the sort of arrangement she’s accepted with respect to her daughter and support from the biological father. If that guy is the father, all Mama Mariah would have to do is whistle up the state welfare board and they would grab this guy by the ankles and shake the money out of him. He would become intimately familiar with the phrase “the best interests of the child.” I know whereof I speak, as my parents divorced. Here in America, family law is state-driven and I spent my teenage years in Baltimore, Maryland, the same state wherein the relevant parts of this movie were supposed to take place.
Next scene has Mom Mariah asleep on the sofa with a cigarette still burning in her fingers. Tsk tsk! Little Billie is sitting at the piano, closes her sheet music and comes over and puts it out. Cut to a later where the camera pans across the piano top showing past pictures and singing awards for Mama Mariah, illustrating her faded glory. Then Mom Mariah lights up another smokeâ€¦and Little Billie wakes up coughing, enveloped in a cloud of smoke. Mama Mariah rushes in to save her. The house is on fire! But wait a minuteâ€¦Mama Mariah looks completely unscathed and yet the house is soon engulfed in flames. I’m a little curious how she escaped without a mark. I mean, if the cigarette ignited the couch and/or her clothes, wouldn’t she be burned at all? Maybe it dropped from her hand, rolled across the floor, fell down a vent and ignited all the smoldering sorrow in the cellar of Little Billie’s psyche that will haunt her forever?
Well, whatever the pyrotechnic proclivities of the Plot-O-Matic 3000â„¢, the finger of blame apparently falls on Little Billie’s Mom as next we see the child wonder being put in the back seat of a sedan by someone from Child Protective Services. Little Billie and her mom hold hands and cry. As the car pulls away, we see Little Billie sadly gazing out the rear window back at her weepy mom who appears to be dutifully trying to smile through her misting eyes and waving goodbye. Pulling out all the stops, Little Billie is suddenly shown tearfully hugging a kitten while a soulful Mariah song sings “She was kind of fragile.” Maybe the kitten symbolizes Mariah’s protective nature, transferred from her mother? Maybe this movie is a pathetic weeper that so clumsily tries to push emotional buttons that it could have made a hard-drinking cynic out of John Paul II?
Next is Little Billie arriving at the orphanage. Here she meets two other girls named Louise and Roxanne. A quick montage of pictures showing Little Billie growing up in the orphanage with scenes of her playing guitar, singing, playing with Louise and Roxanne, and looking cute, follows this. Over all this plays some unidentified pap. Ah, the laugher and the tears.
WARNING: The Surgeon General has determined that gulping down this bucketful of Vermont’s finest back-to-back with Journey’s “Faithfully” or Seal’s “Fast Changes” could cause infertility in male listeners.
Our orphanage interlude suddenly switches over to a dance club with adult Billie (i.e. Mariah) dancing in a club in front of a bank of TVs. There’s been quite a change from the kitten-hugging, saucer-eyed moppet of yore as Billie is now gyrating in fishnet stockings and a teddy to the date-establishing beats of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass.” For us kiddies, however, the date “1983” appears on the screen.
We cut to the dressing room where Billie, Louise and Roxanne are gearing down from the floorshow. In walks a dapper dude with a long cool woman in tow. He sizes our trio with an appraising look. “We’ll have to tone your look down a little bit.” Wow, I’ll say. These outfits go to eleven. (Actually, these outfits go to the truck stop after eleven where they end up on the floor of sleeper cab after a lot lizard molts them.) He’s introduced as Timothy Walker, a producer/promoter of some note. He offers them a position as backup singers for his latest vamp, Sylk. Louise and Roxanne cheer and high-five each other at Walker’s offer. (What businesswomen. Way to play it close to the vest.) Billie, however, says that they have their own thing going, thanks, putting Timothy off.
Moving on to a street scene, we see our trio of trulls excitedly walking along with Billie’s two friends chastising her about turning down Timothy Walker’s offer to join his stable of performers. They convince Mariah to agree to the audition for a backup position. Roxanne mentions Billie’s mother and how Billie should take advantage of the “gift she gave you.” Notice the by-the-numbers plot advancement: (1) Timothy Howard’s name is mentioned again, thus reinforcing his importance to the plot, and (2) Billie is touchy about her mother. (This is her “secret pain” should Sybock from Star Trek V beam on down.) In addition, I noticed that Da Brat (Louise) and Tia Texada (Roxanne) have apparently been instructed to get quite kinetic in their scenes with Billie, ostensibly to offset the fact Mariah is a total Venus de Milo as an actress. They seem to hop and skip around Billie like meth addicts around a Maypole draped with scratch-off lotto tickets.
Next we see Sylk, wearing this hideous blue-green knit jumpsuit thing flounced with some furry collar, flatly wailing a soulless R&B number called, apparently, “You and Only You”—an educated guess seeing as that phrase is repeated ad infinitum. Billie & Co. are attempting to groove along in the background and Timothy and a tech are in the control room. Timothy tells the tech to turn Billie’s mic way up. He’s impressed by her voice—which, admittedly, is better than what Sylk is belting out.
There’s a few establishing night shots of NYC. After these, we pan around the inside of a large club. After sweeping across the various performers and people in weird costumes, the camera focuses in on a DJ haranguing the crowd. A buddy approaches and hands the DJ a cassette, saying it’s the single that Sylk is going to perform. The DJ listens to a little of it and is simply swept away at talent flowing into his ears. He introduces Sylk to the crowd before she and the Billie Backup Brigade begin serenading the poor extras with the painfully ersatz “You and Only You.” Afterwards, the DJ is apparently so blown away that he comes backstage to laud Sylk on her performance, gushing, “I had no idea you could blow like that!”
Sylk huskily replies, “I had no idea how interested you were in how I could blow.” Wow! Zing! (You might have to explain to the 10-year-olds watching what she was insinuating.) In the meantime, a photographer pops up and asks to take a picture of the performers. Sylk walks in front of Billie and Co. and while posing haughtily sneers, “You don’t need them. They’re not important. They’re just backup.” This cartoony display of villainy riles up Billie, who walks around her while singing a line from the song they just finished. This is apparently enough to prove to the DJ who the real talent is around here as he gets this enraptured look on his stubbly mug like he’s just heard a refrain of the Heavenly Chorus. He chases Billie out of the dressing room into the hall. (Man chases woman! It’s The Rules for Complete Idiots!) Catching up with her, he attempts to introduce himself but she says she already knows him—his name is “Dice” and apparently he’s a “bad boy.” (Ah, reforming a bad boy. Every stupid girl’s dream—until they learn what it gets them. Definitely against The Rules.) He asks if that was her voice that Timothy had overdubbed over Sylk. Finding it was, he exclaims that she can’t let Timothy do that—”You can’t let Timothy take the best of you!”
“What makes you think that’s the best of me?” Billie replies, attempting a turn at “saucy.” Hey, I know the plot to this movie! They hook up and then fight.
“There’s more? There’s better? I want some of that!” Dice sputters. He demands she follow him back into the club. Once there, he takes his perch on the DJ stand and announces he’s going into the crowd with a mic and tells the throng, “You can freestyle! You can sing! Hell, you can make love to the DJ if that’s your thing!” He proceeds to do just that and, after a couple of people rap a bit, he makes a beeline for Billie. There’s a comical “moment of destiny” scene where their eyes meet across the floor, everybody around fades into the background and moves in slow-motion and Dice closes in while Billie attempts a demure look. When given the mic, she starts to sing and, of course, wows all the people in earshot.
Afterwards, Dice leads Billie into the street outside the club. He claims that while he’s met a lot of singers, he ain’t met one like her. She tries to look doubtful, attempting an arms-folded persnickety stance—and as someone who has that look down, I judge her efforts a failure. He says that he can get her in the best gigs and venues—places like Madison Square Gardens—if they both really work hard and so on, basically promising the world. She frets about Timothy, not wanting any trouble. He says he’ll take care of everything. Faced with no evidence to back up any of his claims and promises, she caves. He goes back inside. As she walks away with this happy little smirk there’s a hilarious scene where fireworks are interposed over her dreamy face. Isn’t life wonderful?
Dice goes back into the club and finds Timothy Walker on a sofa. Dice wants Walker to release Billie & Co. over to him. Walker says he can’t do that. (Presumably some actual written contract has been signed between Walker and Billie. Otherwise, Walker wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.) Dice says that if Walker ever wants to have one of his stable of performers have a gig in this club, then he’d better change his mind. Walker says not for less than a 100K. And then the scene ends with the issue hanging fire. Gee, do you think this matter of who “owns” Billie will supply us with a dose of ham-fisted future pathos? Are bears Catholic?
Next we see Billie & Co. along with Dice and a soundman inside the boardroom of a music studio. Dice and the soundman are tinkering with some tinny electronica backing music that is going to be used for Billie’s big single debut. Next we see her in the studio singing said single, entitled “Didn’t Mean to Turn You On.” A bit further on, we cut to her singing it in a club. Then we see her onstage at a small hall performing the single in this so-hideous-it’s-funny black babydoll teddy with major flouncing around the hips and a corset top backlaced in pink. The black fishnet stockings and 3″ heels provide tasteful-yet-subdued accessories.
Billie and Dice are sitting in a club. Dice has these beaner shades on that are supposed to make him look cool but instead make him look like a blind man selling newspapers in a federal building. Up come two guys, one of whom introduces the other as the owner of “Tough Ride” records, which is apparently a smaller record label. The one extra with a speaking part has on a silk gold shirt with records that look like flying saucers. Dice blows them off with a comment that he and Billie are sort of doing their own thing for the time being. Billie acts a little put out that Dice is so cavalierly turning down this opportunity. After the two guys leave, Billie questions him about this. He essentially tells her not to worry her pretty little head about it as he’s got his eyes on the biggest label. She pipes down like a good girl.
A couple of more establishing shots of NYC spin by again. Pausing the shot the second time through, I see some new cars that obviously weren’t around in the ’80s. (Movies this bad drive me to such distractions.) Dice leads Billie through another club up to a DJ he apparently knows. He asks the DJ something. She points out somebody on the second floor. He hands her a tape and asks her to play it while he takes Billie up. Upstairs, we are introduced to Guy Richardson and Jack Bridges, bigwigs at “CMZ”—a big music company. Guy and Jack looked bored as they gaze out over the crowd but perk up when Dice and Billie approach and Billie is introduced as the singer currently being played. They are so impressed at the ersatz hospice rock blaring that Guy hands Dice a business card and tells him to stop by the next day after Dice gives him another tape.
The next day arrives on the wings of more daytime establishing shots of NYC. (Thanks. I thought we were in Dayton, Ohio until I saw the Chrysler Building for the third time.) Dice and Billie are entering the palatial corporate digs of CMZ. Movin’ on up to the top floor, we see that CMZ has not only decided they’re interested in Billie, but that they’ve decided to sign her on the spot. After the bubbly flows and Jack Bridges introduces Dice n’ Billie to various VPs, he says the execs flipped when they heard Billie’s demo and that CMZ will do anything to get her on board. We’re expected to believe that, like the boatmen of the Rhine lured over the falls by Lorelei, CMZ will spray a fire hose of money at this siren despite the fact that no contracts have been negotiated, not one test-the-waters single has been released and Billie has not played one tour date to illustrate that she can, in fact, tour—all because of this completely faceless demo.
OK, this needs to be said. A reasonable suspension of disbelief is what we owe movies. But what yokos my ono is when movies push something into my face and declare that he/she/it is the sexiest/scariest/most talented whatever that anybody has ever seen or heard—despite the evidence set before my eyes and ears. When this happens, the audience naturally resists and the movie falls flat. Consider some of the movies Jabootu has run his horns through. For “sexy” stars that weren’t, consider Chastity or Candy or (((shudder))) Sextette. The supporting characters in these movies fawn all over these women and expect us to join them in recognizing these three stars as Aphrodite incarnate, never mind the reality starkly standing before us: an airhead, a bitch and someone older than the Magna Carta, respectively.
Consider the “awesomely talented” star that, in fact, isn’t all that talented. In that category, we have seen Xanadu and Can’t Stop the Music and (((shudder))) Sextette. Our present subject slides quite easily into this group. Mariah sings drivel and everybody falls all over themselves in rhapsodies of ecstasy. People watching just go ‘eh’ and the spell of the movie is immediately sundered. If you put someone on a soundstage and tell me he or she is the most absolutely awesome performer and you have the other actors swoon all over this supposed prodigy like the star is the best dancer/guitarist/pianist/drummer/whatever in history, then you’d better give me someone with a lot of actual talentâ€¦like a Ginger Rogers/Dave Frisk/Vladimir Horowitz/Neil Peart, respectively. I can suspend my disbelief a littleâ€¦but if you say they’re the best, they had better be talented.
Horror movies are notoriously bad for their version of this. Jabootu’s lair is littered with the bones of “scary” movies where actors feigned terror at the sight of guy in a rubber monster suit or some stupid mechanical contraption. Consider such creature features on this site as The Navy vs. the Night Monsters or Jaws: the Revenge orâ€¦
Editor Ken: Or even (((shudder))) Sextette!
These movies all feature something that, while the actors flee in panic at the mere sight of it, just makes you laugh. Most of the time, showing the entire monster kills a certain amount of the tension anyway, as the “unknown” element is removed and the audience now can wrap their minds around the dimensions of the creature.
The bottom line: don’t tell me—show me, because that which doesn’t thrill me makes me somber.
Alright, we cut to an evening scene in the apartment of Billie & Co. Louise and Roxanne are hopping around Billie as she prepares to go on—as the scene is named in the DVD case—”A Date with Dice.” Better than a date with Death, I guess. Going downstairs, she meets Dice who gives her a single red rose and helps her into a limo, which he mentions CMV loaned him. (Hey big spender!) At the restaurant, Dice orders appetizers.
Billie: “What’s this?”
Dice: “It’s escargot, a French delicacy.”
Billie: “They went all the way to France for this?”
Haw haw haw! Try the veal! Hey, somebody save Billie a place at the Algonquin round table next time! That kneeslapper behind them, they toast. “To us!” Then, when you expect that there might actually be a little dialogue between the two about how, say, they feel for each other or something about themselvesâ€¦the scene abruptly ends. Next scene: the limo pull up to Dice’s place. (The limo went back to his place first? Wonder what’s on his mind?) He asks her to come up. She refuses. He cajoles for an apparently irresistible five seconds. She caves. He opens the doorâ€¦the apartment is an absolutely freaking huge loft.
Dice: “What do you think?”
Billie: “Very nice.”
Rebecca: “No way! This is crap!”
Whoops! That last comment was from my friend who spent a year going to school in NYC. She informed us that an apartment of this size would be literally thousands of smackeroos a month, and perhaps millions to buy, depending on location. And the apartment is packed with musical instruments and nice furniture. This guy is a DJ? Whateverâ€¦this guy only lives here if he’s a trust fund baby. Here’s a piano. There’s a marimba. He shows her a little display of his prowess on it. Soâ€¦notâ€¦impressive. The Plot-O-Matic 3000© clanks out a couple more lines of dialogue before the Diceman closes in a little. There’s some uncomfortable Junior High School do-I-kiss-her-now foot shuffling. (Credit Where It’s Dueâ„¢: at least he didn’t ask if he could kiss her now, which is to romantic encounters what the French are to deodorant.) Then they kiss. And then we see their silhouettes through a pane of etched glass as they lay back on the bed together and begin to speed around the bases. I wonder if all the 10-year olds watching know what’s happening? The scene fadesâ€¦
â€¦and then we look down upon Dice and Billie from an over-the-bed camera angle as they lay side-by-side in each other’s arms. I guess they had sex, or at least Hollywood’s PG-13 version of it, which I call the “Immaculate Deception” as I see perfect hair, perfect make-up, unruffled sheets and no one’s out of breath. It’s the romantic equivalent of when James Bond gets into a vicious fistfight and then looks completely debonair in the next scene or when Foghorn Leghorn takes a frying pan to the beak in one scene and is ready to paddle the hound dog with a board in the next. What did our lovebirds actually do, anyway? Exchange a hearty handshake? I’ll just say this: last time I checked, coitus was a contact sport. Billie tries to act like she’s blissful with her beau and all happy, but it comes off like she’s snuggling with a mannequin from Dillards. Then they lie to each other:
Billie: “You know, I don’t doâ€¦this.” (Pip: this is pretty much demonstratively untrue, wouldn’t you say?)
Dice: “You’reâ€¦different.” (Pip: The unspoken predicate to this sentence presumably being “â€¦than all the other skankazoids I’ve hooked up with on the first date.” What a romantic.)
Billie: “You don’t have to say that just because we slept together.” (Pip: Oh yes you do. Particularly if you want it to happen again.)
Next sceneâ€¦Billie in a sound stage, listening to a playback of her voice. Dice is in the sound booth with a tech and, behind him, Jack and Guy from CMV. Unhappy with the noisy production, Dice bellows into the soundman to “lose all the superfluous s—!” Whoaâ€¦that’s a mighty big word for 10-year-olds. The soundman turns off the backing music so only Billie’s voice remains. (An action that seems pretty much the opposite of what Dice commanded.) Dice tells her to sing this “as you would sing this.” This is followed by a brief interlude on a street. Dice and Billie are in the back of a cab when the radio begins to play while they wait at a light. They both leap out of the car and call Billie’s friends on a phone, trying to play the song for them over the line. The cabbie doesn’t know what to do and stops in traffic. Other people are honking their horns. I guess we are supposed to think this rudeness to the other motorists is cute. All I can say is that if this stunt were pulled in front of a certain red Passat with Texas plates, Billie and Dice would be sporting tire tracks at the viewing.
The next scene finds us at a video shoot. (Imaginatively titled “video shoot” in the chapter selector.) We see a heavily made-up Billie in a two-piece with a translucent wrap around her preening on a soundstage while glittery strips rain down and Roxanne and Louise gyrate in the background wearing what looks likeâ€¦what are those? Chainmail cami tops? They look like Profion’s hos might have in Dungeons and Dragons if he hadn’t instead been so interested in Blue Lips and the movie had been rated R. The song the video is for is this awful synthetic compost whose only lyrics I got were “Uh huh! Uh huh! Baby baby oooh uh huh!” The music sounds like something you’d hear on North Korean radio; the lyrics probably won’t be covered at the next Lillith Festival. The funniest part is watching Da Brat take some glitter in the eye while Mariah vamps it up.
There’s a foofy-acting guy directing the music video that cuts the action and complains that the glitter cannot overpower the artist (prophetic!) before loudly demanding in a German accent, “I want to see more of her breasts!” Then he gives Roxanne and Louise a disgusted look before telling an observing Guy Richardson that they are a joke—”strippers at best!” (This last after crying out to see more boobage from Billie. Did anybody even read the script before filming began?) Guy, in turn, quietly tells Dice that Roxanne and Louise have to go. At this point Billie and Dice are cornered by two more characters from the record company. The first is an extremely annoying and badly acted “publicist” named Kelly Frank. The second is her intentionally-made-to-look-dorky assistant, Peter. Kelly breathlessly recites a litany of interviews and photo-shoots she has planned for Billie. This goes on for awhile before foofy-director cuts her off for the second take of the video shoot.
And what a second shot it is! Gone are Roxanne and Louise, leaving Billie—sans wrap—alone on the soundstage. The music starts and these four half naked guys burst in from the wings and cavort up to Billie as she lip-synchs away in her underwear and heels. The four guys have red and black flames painted on their skin and they hop around the nearly naked Billie and start fondling her while the director bellows, “Her breasts! Get around her breasts!! Breasts!!!” You can’t make this stuff up. Well, that’s enough for Dice. He yells, “cut!” and proceeds to argue with the director. Guy intercedes and tells Dice he’s overreacting. Dice still hauls Billie off the set over Guy’s warnings, taking her by the arm and leading her away, providing us with a gratuitous panty-covered butt shot of Billie on the way.
The next day finds Billie & Company out shopping. Actually, we see the hideous aftermathâ€¦the trio dressed in matching gold pantsuits and hats that look like they were cut from the reflective tinfoil used to wrap old satellites and double cheeseburgers. Cissy called these retina-scalding get-ups D.O.R.C.S.—Dreadful Outfits Returned by Carmela Soprano. They happily parade down the street flaunting several Fiorucci bags. They must have found the duds they’re wearing in Fiorucci’s dumpster.
Back to a studio where Billie and Dice are working. Annoying PR lady shows up with some of the glossies from the aborted video. Bustling Dice out of the way, she prattles on about changing Billie’s look from her current “street urchin sassy slutty look.” Dice hates it. PR lady tells him off. Dice says he’s going to get a smoke. Out in the hall, Timothy appears. He invites Dice into a studio wherein Sylk is cutting another tune. They proceed to warily circle one another verbally, Timothy hinting he wants his money and Dice saying they never had a deal and tough luck.
Cut to Dice palatial digs. Billie has bought Dice a Yamaha DX7 keyboard. He sorta kinda asks her to move in with him. She agrees. Later, we see Billie unpacking some boxes. She finds some pictures of her mother and what looks like some letters and proceeds to almost look a little misty. While the Piano of Tears tinkles weepily in the background, Dice sidles up and asks what’s wrong. She explains that she’s always have this big dream of starring on a music show on TV and having her long lost mother see her and want to reunite. Dice gives her some supportive talk. He should give her some acting lessons.
Next, from the Totally Out of Ideas department, we see Billie composing a song on the keyboard, playing and singing. I note her hands, which are out of view, don’t seem to be following the music. But this minor indiscretion pales in comparison to the yowling lip-synch job the movie slips in here. The song is apparently called “Reflections” and is a weeper about her mother leavened with lines like “Did you really care about me at all?” This is generic pap at its UPC-labeled worst—the kind of stuff the Soviets would have cranked out if neutered torch numbers had been part of the five-year-plan. Dice comes in and listens for awhile before making his presence known by giving her a peck and asking about the song.
Now we get a brief interlude at a state welfare office. Billie is asking a case worker about contact information for her mother. The case worker gets out the file and discovers that the state had lost track of her mother quite some time ago. Billie apparently gives up, as no other mention of further searching is made. This, of course, was in the dark days before the Internet, but couldn’t she even hire a detective or something? Oh. Right. We have to keep mom offstage until the final number that Billie will inevitably sing on TV. (Just making a crazy guess here.)
Now, back to a studio. Billie is on the stage and Dice is in the booth with another of our long-suffering sound techs. Guy and Jack show up. Guy says that Billie’s single has been knocked out of the #1 slot and that the label wants an album out yesterday. Dice says that ten weeks at #1 isn’t too bad. Guy pointedly says to Billie that there are a lot of great producers out there, letting the implications of that marinate in the silence a moment before Billie stupidly asks, “Uh, what’s that mean?”
Later, back at Dice’s Casa del Taj Mahal, Billie asks a gloomy Dice about the meeting he had in private with some of the bigwigs at the label:
“How the meeting go?”
“Not so good. They didn’t like one song.” (Emphasis by reviewer.)
“That’s impossible. What’d they say?”
“They wanted you to crossover and that everything sounded exactly the same.” (Emphasis by reviewer.)
Methinks someone at the label has a brain. Anyway, we next see Billie in the back of a limo with Kelly the annoying PR lady and her doofy sidekick Peter. Kelly is talking into a mobile phone and spazzes when she hears that Billie has landed a good gig through her efforts—”Oh my God! They want you to do the USA Music Awards!!”—and that she has to go rehearse right now. Turn around the car! Head for Radio City on the double! Billie asks if Dice should be notified but PR lady Kelly blows her off with a “Yeah yeah we’ll call him later.” In the meantime, there’s a quick scene of Dice playing with some musicians back at his pad.
Arriving at the music hall, Billie is hustled into the wings of the main stage. On the pitch, we spy a guy with dreads at the Steinway fumbling through something from Book 2 of Teaching Little Fingers to Play while crooning a torch ballad: “I’ll never know what could have beenâ€¦” I’m going to guess this guy is named Rafael as that is what this scene is named in the DVD case. Billie listens with a blank look that I guessing is supposed to be a look of interest, although it’s the same look you might have four hours into a Teletubbies marathon. When he finishes and Billie is coming on, they exchange glances in passing. Billie digs into the scenery with a up-tempo pop number. Watching this I realize that what studios need these days are cardboard cutouts of Gwen Stefani by the door with the inscription “You must be at least this good to be a pop star.”
But apparently not, as next we see a red carpet sequence outside the aforementioned USA Music Awards. There a gushing reporter, not badly acted, giving some pap about the great show that’s been assembled and how Lionel Ritchie has won some major categories like Best Performer or something. (When Glitter came out, Lionel Ritchie had already been relegated to being a perpetual Las Vegas act, the American equivalent of being wheeled in to spoon with Lenin. I think one of our screenwriters here may have had a sense of humor.) Out come the first of the horribly-dressed performers. The second couple is Billie and Dice. Billie doesn’t look bad at all in her dress but Dice looks as if he just slipped out of bed in his black jammies and combed his hair with the TV remote. The reporter greets them with some friendly chattiness and then asks “Rumor has it thatâ€¦” but Dice cuts her off rudely, saying they’ve got to be somewhere really important really quickly so get lost wage slave. It’s obvious that the implication is that Billie is rumored to be working with some other producer or something and Dice is unhappy and jealous because of it.
Meanwhile, Roxie and Louise are watching on TV while dressing for a after-show party. They shriek appropriately at Billie’s appearance. Roxanne is trying on outfits and Louise is both turning up her nose at each attempt while imploring her to hurry. (Dearheart: In Pip’s world you get one or the other—I can hurry up or you can critique the chic, but not both.) Roxanne settles on a hideous ensemble that clashes like a chunk of francium heaved into a bowl of cow urine.
Fast forward to the party. Billie and Dice mingle with Roxanne and Louise in orbit. A guy comes up and introduces himself to Billie as movie producer and says that he would love to put her in a movie. Dice cuts that he always wanted to produce movies. The guy is like yeah, whatever and tunes him out, focusing his attention on Billie and leaving Dice steaming. After he peels off, Jack from the label appears. He’s got on this beastly green ribbon ascot that makes him look like the Lucky Charms mascot. He pulls Billie away and introduces her to Rafael before peeling off himself to leave Rafael and Billie alone. Rafael says he’s a big fan. She’s like, you know, impressed and stuff. He says he wants to work with her. She says she’s impressed with him. HEY! Wake up! If I review this, you have to read it! Up walks a jealous Dice. He cuts in and icily torpedoes any chance of working together, despite Rafael’s offer to have all three work together. Dice gets Billie alone for a moment and demands that they leave now. She’s bewildered and wants to stay. He threatens to “make a scene” if she doesn’t accompany him immediately. (If you do, Dice, make it watchable and entertaining. None of them in this movie have been thus far.)
Back in the back of the limo, Dice is drinking and begins to mock Rafael by snidely imitating his voice repeating his invitation to work together someday. He must be clairaudient as he wasn’t actually within earshot of Billie and Rafael when they were having that conversation back at the party. Then he complains that Billie’s clothes are too revealing. When her friends speak up, he calls Roxanne a “motormouth” and Louise a “fat ass.” This sparks off a stilted three-on-one row that ends with Roxanne and Louise demanding to be left off on some corner. Dice’s behavior is supposed to make all the girls watching commiserate with a “that bastard” moment, but the script is so phony and Dice’s malice is so baseless that it just comes off with all the verve of a C- health class skit on the perils of underage drinking.
Further cheering us down, the limo outburst leads to a scene of Billie “crying” in the bathroom back home. All three of us watching immediately and simultaneously noted the same thing—Mariah Carey cannot act in a scene that requires any emotion beyond opening the mail. Mariah just cannot act at all. In nearly every scene in this movie, she has the very same flat expression. Not a blonde airhead expression like Candy but a stiff, self-aware look that screams that she knows she’s on camera and cannot let her guard down or mess up her make-up. It’s a rigid jumpy look like you’d see on a communications major’s face as she conducts her first on-screen interview for public access with the campus police chief for safety awareness month. It’s non-acting, really, like Sandra Bullock in the Speed movies. I keep expecting her to stare directly at the camera. Anyway, Dice enters and, while the Apology Piano plinks away in the background, says he’s sorry for his outburst earlier and so on and so forth. She instantly forgives him and they kiss.
Later, Billie is walking on the street and she sees a homeless woman staggering down the sidewalk, apparently drunk, and singing some song. In fact, the drunk woman looks like Billie’s long lost mom and sings like her to. As Billie watches, apparently reflecting on the memory of her mother, this totally incongruous happy happy keyboard is playing in the background.
Back at the mammoth Dice Digs, Billie comes back from the store to find that Timothy has broken in. Timothy, who actually manages to convey some malice through soft and slow delivery, explains that he had a deal with Dice that he was to get 100K for the rights to her contract and that he hasn’t seen any of the money yet. Gripping her chin, he says he doesn’t want to hurt her but he will if doesn’t get his money. Once he lets go and turns to leave, she stands there silently like a big dummy and does nothing as he walks out. (Were that me, Timothy would get to hear from the P228 Pippinator once his back was turned.)
When Dice comes back, Billie blathers out the story at Dice’s prompting. Like a moron, I note she apparently hasn’t called the cops. Dice leaves in a fury. His Timothy radar is pretty good as we next see Dice stalk up to Timothy as he steps out of a doorway and begin to pound on him. His cop radar is pretty bad as he does this within view of two cops walking the beat and the last thing we see are the officers closing in to break it up.
Next we see Billie in the wings of another stage getting ready to go on stage with Annoying PR lady hovering around in attendance. The stagehand tells her she has a call. She finds out that Dice is in the slammer. Cutting to a frenetic scene outside of a jail, the phony movie paparazzi descend on Billie and Dice as they leave the jail, Billie having apparently bounced her boneheaded boyfriend. They push their way to the limo and escape. Back the Casa del Implausible, Billie turns on the TV right at the moment when the local news is reporting that Dice was busted and Timothy is in the hospital. This leads Billie to want to leave, which leads to a shouting match. (I don’t know what she’s upset about; when you’re a pop diva, you can’t be shamed. Any publicity is good.) There’s some choice bits like, “This isn’t about you. It’s about us,” and other canned palaver. This fight degenerates into a contest of who can hurt the other person more and eventually Dice says something about Billie’s mother that leads her to theatrically slap him and stomp out. A match made in Hades. Later, we see Louise and Roxanne have taken her in.
The next day, Jack Bridges (one of the label guys) brings Billie to make a surprise (for her) visit to Rafael in the studio. She claims to be in a bad mood, but exclaims happiness when she sees Rafael and he claims to like her “work” (I’m glad she tells us how she’s feeling—you wouldn’t know otherwise.) They work on a duet together, which the movie plays out through several scenes showing the stages of the track’s development from piano to vocal tracks to music backup. There’s actually an eensy-weensy bit of chemistry between Billie and Rafael as they sit at the piano. Maybe I’m biased as I also play some piano. Or maybe they told Mariah that the cameras weren’t running in order to wring some life from her. By the way, the song is “I Want You” and has this awful—yet hilarious—backing synth track that sounds like what you would hear if you put a stethoscope up to a tummy working on a bad burrito. Cissy hated this one bad. It made her visibly upset. However, basking in the afterstink of this audio flatulence, one recalls that most of Mariah’s odiferous oeuvre reeks even worse.
Focusing in on Billie as she leaves the studio, we hear some rocket-jawed radio DJ spew bilge about how the song is number one with a bullet and the album is number one with a rocket. (P.T. Barnum was right, apparently.) Arriving back at her current haunt, (I’m guessing she’s still at the apartment of Roxanne and Louise), there’s a hilarious scene where she succumbs to the draw of the phone and calls Dice. At his place, Dice is sitting next to the ringing phone andâ€¦almostâ€¦picks it up—his hand hovering over the receiver—before the machine takes it. Sheâ€¦almostâ€¦leaves a message but hangs up with a sigh. Iâ€¦almostâ€¦didn’t make it through this scene, my thumb over the remote wanting to flip back to where Florida State was losing a basketball game big, but I remained adamant to get to the end of this.
Just in time forâ€¦well, nothing, as things go from merely clichÃ©d to downright laughable. Dice’s malign muse strikes, causing him to go over to piano and begin composing a song he entitled “A Melody for Billie.” As the script would have it, Billie is also thinking of a melody and begins to scrawl lyrics or notes on a notepad. And wouldn’t you know it, the melody they come up with is the same, with Dice playing a few notes and then the camera is back on Billie as she hums the same notes, then back to Dice again. I haven’t been less touched since briefly dating a closeted gay guy back in undergraduate school.
Just to add a bit to the She-Can’t-Live-Without-Him pathos, next comes a shot of a dance studio with Billie and the CMV entourage watching five dancers perform in a floor formation. Apparently this is supposed to be a video shoot. A pleasing twenty-second sequence of the dancers busting moves occurs before Billie totters onto the stage and ruins everything by starting to sing. Or trying to start anyway, because she quickly gets emotional about the arrangement or something, throwing down the mic like a baby and stomping off in a snit. I guess we’re supposed to believe that she has saggy-diapers-that-leak about her split with Dice and that because of the breakup she is missing Dice so much it’s affecting her work. Yawnâ€¦love lies snoring.
After the studio meltdown, Billie goes back to Dice’s opulent digs, but he’s not home. Still finding her way in, the script draws her over to the piano at which Dice had been composing during their previous meeting of the mindless. Sheet music is laid out over the keys along with a photo of Billie and Dice in happier times. Sitting down, she starts to play the notes that Dice had written and then notices a ticket to upcoming big show at Madison Square Garden. She kisses the sheet music, her trademark pink lipstick leaving an incongruous red kiss.
Back out on the street, we see Billie leave just seconds before Dice appears and goes inside. In the interest of keeping the movie going, the scriptmonster lures him immediately over to the piano where he instantly notices the kissy smooch on the music. Enjoy the moment Dice, because we quickly cut to a street scene. Timothy gets out of a car, looking remarkably unhurt, and calls out to Dice who is walking along away from him on the sidewalk. Dice turns around. Dapper Timothy puts his hand up, exposing a naked palm, in what I’m guessing is supposed to be a sign of peace. Dice stalks towards Timothy with apparent intent to beat on him some more. As he closes in, Timothy pulls a pistol with his other hand and shoots Dice at close range. Then the scene suddenly ends.
Was this necessary? An on-screen murder in a movie for 10-year olds about the rise of a pop star? This is in no way needed to advance the plot. As far as I know, there is no analog to this in Mariah’s real life. I guess the writers thought a violent and senseless death was necessary to make Mariah’s subsequent performance more poignant (see below) but I don’t buy it. First, with a couple of changes, this movie could get a “G” rating. This looks to me like a gawky attempt to jack up the pathos to PG-13 levels. Second, there are other ways to add “meaning” to Mariah’s big concert better than an onscreen shooting. And finally, if this movie had achieved anything, it’s made it clear that Timothy Walker is much too smooth to do something like this himself in public with witnesses.
The next shot (tee hee) is of a packed Madison Square Gardens filled with morons chanting “Billie! Billie!” Cutting to a suite, Jack Bridges stalks in and heatedly asks the assembled passel of label doorknobs (Annoying PR lady, her sidekick, etc.) where Billie is at that she’s late. Suddenly, Annoying PR lady gets a phone call. She cries out “OMG! Turn on the TV!” Miraculously, the first channel seen is a newscast at the exact moment the reporter is announcing that Dice has crapped out. (Funny, I thought that, before Giuliani was elected, they just ran the names of the day’s murder victims on a scroll along the bottom of the screen along with the lottery numbers and Yankees/Mets scores.) Right when the announcement is over, all heads turn silently on a swivel to see Billie in the doorway, looking “shocked” like she had just heard that her car needed a new air filter or something.
But the show must go on! The camera following Billie pans up over her backside as she approaches the stage. She’s got this flowing stretch dress on that trains behind. Onstage, four dancers begin a synchronized funky dance number which Billie ruins by simply walking on and beginning to address the crowd. (Aside: I hope she didn’t originally intend to do some really dynamic floor routine wearing that full-length dress.) Seeing that she wants to say something, the crowd of New Yorkers immediately pipe down and refrain from any catcalls and whistling while Billie delivers the preamble, “Everybody out there, don’t ever take anybody for granted. You never know when you might lose them.” Then she goes into this ultra-schmaltzy ballad called “Never Too Far.” This song is one of the two videos included in the DVD. I must say, although I ended up listening to each song/sequence in this movie four or five times while mulling over my comments, it felt like I heard this song twice as often. It never ends, particularly the full-length video of it in the DVD extra, and stinks much more mightily than some of the other merely grating indiscretions we’ve suffered through already. Actually, if I were ever asked what Kathy Ireland from Alien from L.A. would sound like if Russian Mafia goons were zapping her with a cattle prod, this would be my guess. The crowd, despite apparently expecting a high-energy number, listens politely.
In the dressing room after the show, Billie finds a card with her name on it. And Lo! It’s a card from Dice. The letter is everything the screenwriters thought particularly dim 10-year-old girls would want to hear in an I’m-sorry letter of reconciliation. There’s also mention that “social services” called and that Billie’s mom has been found. She’s apparently living in a small town in Maryland and she’s been clean and sober for quite some time. (Remember that state you last saw her in, Billie? Might have been a good place to look for starters.) Yet, for some reason, she’s never sought out Billie.
Anyway, the next scene has Billie waking up in the back of the limo as the morning sun shines in and it pulls into the gravel driveway of a surprisingly nice house in the country. Apparently they drove all night to get there. They must have gotten stuck in traffic as it wouldn’t take all night to drive from NYC to anywhere in Maryland a limo could get into. They should keep going and see the Blair Witch down in Burkettsville. That would really give Mariah something to wail about. In any event, we get to snicker as Billie stumbles across the uneven lawn in heels and a flowing spaghetti-strapped evening gown towards the house. Her mother comes down the steps and, as the camera retreats into the sky, there’s a tearful reunion.
Credits in view! O! The joy!
With this movie, we achieve something I thought not possible: a movie so dull, so boring and so utterly lifeless that I forgot what it looked and sounded like as I was watching it. I’m not sure what they were trying to accomplish here. Picture in your mind’s eye Mariah in the studio—daubing her soul onto the audio canvas—attempting desperately to convey some deep-seated emotional condition common to all her fellow earth-voyageurs—and then realizing, only when the instruments were stored, that she had created a piece of garbage. Maybe it’s the result of nothing more than too many raspberry swirls and then somebody found the keys to a soundstage. In any event, what resulted was movie crammed with music so boring that I was almost pining for some Celine Dion by the end (I got over it), interspersed with dramatic dialogue so dopey I had to watch a Comic Relief special with Whoopi Goldberg in order to stop laughing.
How did this woman get famous? I know! She sold her soul for stardom! You say you already knew that? Ah, but less well known, though, is that a few years later, Mariah took out a second mortgage on her soul with Eris, the Greek goddess of discord, a term defined by Webster’s as “a combination of musical sounds which strike the ear harshly.” As Satan was the original musical talent behind the blessed heavenly chorus, Mariah literally “sold out”! You heard it here first! Seriously, Mariah is pretty much the product of a cynical calculation:
Record Sales = (ISC * 36D)HM / #R&BC
(where “ISC” stands for Insincere Soulful Caterwauling and 36D is her bra size after augmentation.
All this is raised to the power of the Hype Machine “HM,” but divided by the Number of competing R&B Clones.)
Carrying this further, since Mariah has miraculously managed some staying power with help from her prefab publicity-stunt breakdowns, maybe she can then milk her checkout lane shelf life with the Celebrity Marriage ploy, then a ballyhooed “Who’s-The-Father” pregnancy, followed by the Celebrity Divorce—complete with “That Bastard!” articles in the checkout lane glossy mags down at the Winn-Dixie—before retiring to Redbook and Readers Digest with swill like “The Secret to Happiness that Saved My Family” and another Christmas album, maybe with Josh Groban this time. Hey, it sure couldn’t sound worse. The soundtrack to Glitter became Carey’s worst showing on the charts, and the lowest selling album of her career to date. Mariah became a pariah. Her record label, Virgin/EMI later canceled their record deal with her. (She can dry her tears on the alleged $28 million they paid her to go away.)
Another thing that gets me about this movie is that they never really show a song all the way through. Presumably the audience for this would be taste-impaired fans of Mariah and would be anxious to hear this bilge. Instead, they don’t even deliver those goods. In a way, it’s like the movie is rushing to be over as soon as it has begun. Scenes seems to tramp on the heels of the ones before them, like they took a real movie and sliced the last twenty seconds from each scene.
What happened to the other people in the aftermath of this? Max “Dice” Beasley, who doesn’t make an idiot of himself too badly here, (he’s British—they have a way of taking boneheaded tragedies and somehow shifting the light so they look like noble tragedies) has found plenty of work in on the Beeb, the series Bodies and Hotel Babylon being two such projects. Eric “Raphael” BenÃ©t was, and still is, a fairly successful R&B singer with a gold record to his credit. He went on to marry, then divorce, Halle Berry after this, prehaps passing on some kind of curse onto her to begin starring in suckola movies. Terrance “Timothy” Howard has starred good movies like Mr. Holland’s Opus and Ray before and since this abyss, seemingly moving on without too much trouble. In fact, other than making Mariah “Bad Actress” Carey a temporary laughingstock, this movie has largely sunk without too many ripples. Mariah herself recently has made a comeback, aided by the music industry hype machine. Her ninth studio album, The Emancipation of Mimi, became the year’s best-selling album in the U.S. in 2005, and was selected for a Grammy Award as Best Contemporary R&B Album and received some of Carey’s most favorable reviews in years. She told HX magazine that it was “very much like a party record… the process of putting on makeup and getting ready to go out… I wanted to make a record that was reflective of that.” After plowing such virgin ground with these solemn reflections on heavyweight issues, she went on to appear on the cover of the March 2007 edition of Playboy.
Carey looked back on Glitter with a barrage of ridiculous statements, telling one source that “it was something that had to happen in my life. That time period was so blown out of proportion. That movie and that soundtrack — which had some really good songs that hopefully one day I’ll get to redo — the fact it came out on September 11, people need to remember. How can we expect anything from that? I was a scapegoat in a lot of ways for talk show hosts who wanted to get away from the real stuff going on in the world. We all have to go through our tests to see how strong we are and come out on the other side.”
I’m turning the knob on the sympathy spigot but nothing is coming out. Let’s finish up by looking at that litany of denial and finger-pointing. First off, making god-awful movies is not something that has to happen to anyone. Second, what exactly about 9/11 was blown out of proportion? Third, redo these songs?!? When it comes to the soundtrack to this tacky tar pit of taste, the Army Corps of Engineers couldn’t pump this much bilge if they tried. Give it up. Finally, notice how she turns it around to herself, like a classic narcissist, by claiming she was a scapegoat. Mariah, if we “wanted to get away from the real stuff going on in the world” then we would have seen your movie. We didn’t because it royally sucked. Nobody cared.
As for going through our tests, I suppose I came out of the other side of this with a stronger dislike for Mariah Carey and her music, let alone her acting. Check this one out. You’ll be sad you did.
The director voiceover is a joke. Vondie Curtis-Hall had one directorial credit before this, Gridlock’d, and he mumbles his way through the whole commentary track like he wishes he could anywhere else: “Iâ€¦uhâ€¦wanted to make aâ€¦mmmâ€¦a good movie with emotion and uhâ€¦good music.”
The DVD also contains two full-length music videos, one entitled “Loverboy” and the other the finale song, “Never Too Far.” The first is this hideous rap thing. The second is unedited and uncut in all its cyclopean tackiness. Mariah’s lack of restraint will give you a rough idea of the span of infinity. The apparent length of these numbers will give you a rough idea of the scope of eternity. It sounds likeâ€¦
Hey, you know what? We hear this stuff in the malls and elevators and dentists’ offices and ignore it. I just reviewed this whole stinking movie. I’m done. Now I’m supposed to objectively review “That Which Shall Not Be Listened To”?
I CAN’T DO IT ANYMORE!
I WON’T DO IT ANYMORE!
The Critics Rave!
“I’m pretty sure the masterminds at Digital Domain used some CGI techniques to get Mariah’s face to shape-shift in scenes that required emotion.”
—Collin Souter, eFilmCritic.com
“Now that Glitter, her feature starring debut, has finally arrived in theatres, the reason for pop/R&B diva Mariah Carey’s much-publicized breakdowns (at last count: two) is abundantly clear: the film itself.”
—Michael Dequina, Mr. Brown’s Movies
“Carey recently checked into a couple of hospitals to seek treatment, reportedly for a mental breakdown, and if anyone around her seeks to bring her spirits up, the best thing they can do is keep her away from those who bothered to see this travesty of a movie.”
—David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org
Thanks to all the Little Peopleâ€¦
Ken Begg, of course. (Ken puts up with the bursts of demanding and raucous emails from me interspersed with long periods of silence.) Bill Leary and Carl Fink for proofing. (Tough duty for no pay.) Patricia Hartrick for editing the final draft. (Yes, I’m eating more.) And of course, Cissy and Rebecca for “enjoying” this with me during the first “official screening.” (You guys always leave these things saying you’re never doing it again, and yet here you are. Thanks.)
Eva Vandergeld can be reached at evandergeld at that yahoo.com place. There, you can tell her that her relic of a webpage, www.geocities.com/evandergeld/egv.html, needs to be updated and moved to myspace or something. You can also buy (i.e. download) the book I co-authored through a link there. Wow.