The rise to fame of Billie Frank -- the struggling songstress played by ear-piercing pop diva Mariah Carey in the witless showbiz fairytale "Glitter" -- is so absurdly easy you'd think you're supposed to hate her for it.
After a quickie boo-hoo introduction in which young Billie is abandoned by her bar-singer ghetto mom for no adequately explored reason and put in an orphanage, director Vondie Curtis Hall ("Gridlock'd") fast-forwards to a nightclub scene in 1983 (symbolized by the occasional butt-ugly costume). There our girl, now all grown up curvy, gets offered a gig as a backup singer to a tone-deaf rising star, solely based on the way she wiggles her booty.
During the ensuing recording session, the pimp-daddy producer (Terrence Howard, "Angel Eyes") turns up Billie's microphone and substitutes her voice for his star's. In the next scene an influential DJ called "Dice" (some scruffy-handsome English actor named Max Beesley spouting the most laughable white-boy street lingo ever spoken with a straight face) hears the tape, hears Billie sing, realizes who the real talent is and offers to make her famous.
After that, a record deal, a sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden and a last-reel reunion with her long-lost mother are little more than formalities. This predictable, cheesy, rose-colored music industry yarn is so hollow that Carey's blood-curdling high-register warble practically echoes around the theater for the movie's entire run time.
Carey has no weight as an actress. She can speak her lines without looking entirely foolish, but she's utterly flavorless emotionally and garners so little sympathy that the audience at the preview screening I attended (consisting of target-demographic Top 40-listeners) laughed hard and long at many of the picture's tender moments.
We're supposed to feel sorry for Billie because Dice pushes her around, becoming controlling and jealous. But it's hard to get behind a girl who has so little backbone. Then only a few scenes later they break up and we're supposed to root for them getting back together during a montage sequence featuring each of them composing sad love songs.
We're supposed to feel sorry for Dice, too, because he foolishly agreed to pay $100,000 to the producer who had Billie singing back-up. When he refuses pony up after she's made it, the guy gets violent. Aww, poor lying, possessive, contract-breaking, homeboy-wannabe disc jockey.
If either of these characters could be taken seriously, some of these moments might not play so unintentionally funny. But Carey and Beesley give two of the least convincing -- albeit overly sincere -- performances of the year.
Director Hall serves up montage after montage to keep the movie's pace at an acceptable clip, and he shows other signs that he's doing the best with the material he has to work with. But nobody could overcome the enormous drag of Carey's acting and the disingenuous, disintegrating script by Kate Lanier, who must have burned all her "A" material for rock'n'roll scripts in the Tina Turner bio "What's Love Got To Do With It?"
Run time: 104 mins
In Theaters: Friday 21st September 2001
Box Office USA: $3.9M
Box Office Worldwide: $5.3M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: Columbia Pictures, 20th Century Fox
Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 7%
Fresh: 6 Rotten: 81
IMDB: 2.1 / 10
Director: Vondie Curtis Hall
Starring: Mariah Carey as Billie Frank, Max Beesley as Julian "Dice" Black, Terrence Howard as Timothy Walker, Valarie Pettiford as Lillian Frank, Padma Lakshmi as Sylk, Tia Texada as Roxanne, Da Brat as Louise, Eric Benet as Rafael, Don Ackerman as Peter