Glitter is every bit as bad as you probably expected — and worse. I knew I was in for it when people kept asking me, “Have you seen it yet?” (as usual in such cases, none of these people were volunteering to go with me), but I had no idea the stupefying degree of tedium that was to be inflicted on me — and the poor four others in the theater who had presumably actually paid to experience this unparalleled mess. There are some truly bad movies that cross the line into being so bad they’re good. Then there are truly bad movies that are just so bad that they’re awful. Glitter isn’t really in either category, being downright painful. If you’re hoping for a few unintentional laughs, forget it. What you’ll get is sleep-inducing boredom and the sense that you know how Malcolm McDowell felt after being given the Ludovico Treatment in A Clockwork Orange. Whether or not Mariah Carey can sing is a matter of personal opinion — though no character in the film misses a single carefully scripted opportunity to stroke Carey’s ego as a vocalist. There is no denying, of course, that she has the interesting capacity to hit notes that only dogs can hear, but even her staunchest admirers aren’t likely to make claims for her acting. This consists of freezing her face into an expression that is somewhere between a smirk and a grin. She’s also mastered the knack of looking sad. In Glitter she does both — a lot. It’s not all her fault. There are more than a few others responsible for perpetrating this collection of showbiz cliches and the most groan-inducing soap-opera plotting ever. First off, there’s the screenplay penned by Kate Lanier, whose other credits include the quickly forgotten — but not forgiven — big-screen version of The Mod Squad. It’s obvious that Ms. Lanier has seen a few movies in her time. She even knows how to copy bits of them. What she doesn’t know is how to develop a coherent story. Glitter’s set-up is this: When her alcoholic, blues-singer mother (Valarie Pettiford) accidentally burns their apartment building down, young Billie Frank (Isabel Gomes) is packed off to an orphanage with her orange cat — and then things just sort of occur without rhyme or reason. It’s never made clear, for example, just why Billie’s mother has to abandon her after the fire. Then, adult Billie (Carey) somehow ends up with some of her mother’s effects (“I don’t think I ever saw her without this ring,” she remarks), making it look like mom is dead. A little later, we find Billie searching for her mother, leading us to believe mom must be alive, but has merely vanished off the face of the earth. And remember that orange cat Billie took with her to the orphanage? Well, after seeing nothing of him for a very long time, he turns up reels and reels later when Billie finally decides to walk out on her mentor boyfriend — after which the cat again disappears from the film. (I like to think that the cat saw the rushes and demanded that his agent get him out of the movie.) And then there’s Carey’s mentor boyfriend, Julian “Dice” Black, played by personable young English actor, Max Beesley, sporting the most ill-conceived street jive talk imaginable (never mind that the movie is set in 1983, before this kind of “thug lite” stuff was fashionable). What anyone was thinking here is hard to imagine. Billie skyrockets to fame for no very good reason; her boyfriend not only never manages to ante up the $100,000 he owes for her contract, but unaccountably hits the skids so that Glitter can into a really bad rehash of A Star Is Born. (When Carey stops her show at Madison Square Garden to speak to the crowd, you fully expect her to say, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Mrs. Norman ‘Dice’ Main.”) Vondie Curtis Hall’s direction is adequate, but his idea of holding the movie together by inserting pointless helicopter shots of New York City doesn’t work, and since he presumably read the script before signing on, I don’t see why he should be held unaccountable. If this first release of the fall season is any indication of things to come, it’s going to be a long, hard winter at the movies.
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