Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Mariah Carey, Max Beesley
Director:  Vondie Curtis Hall
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1, Pan & Scan 1.33:1
Studio:  Columbia Tri Star
Features:  See Review
Length:  103 Minutes
Release Date:  January 15, 2002

“Lemme tell you something…I meet singers all the time, but I ain’t never met anybody like you.  You got something special.”

“Is this how you, like, try and soup girls up to get what you want?”

“I don’t soup girls up.”

Film *1/2

I’ve never been a fan of Mariah Carey, the singer…I know that puts me in an oblique minority.  Her voice, which has enthralled masses to the tunes of millions upon millions of records sold, always filled me with images of her wrestling every song to the ground, stepping on its neck, and forcing it to scream out the name Mariah.

If anything, I tried to take comfort in the fact that maybe watching Mariah Carey, the actress, would at least be a diversion from her music…naïve fool that I was.  Glitter, of course, is merely a springboard for a singer trying to prove she can act as well.  What’s the best that can be said about Ms. Carey’s efforts?  I suppose merely that she’s in illustrious company.  Diana Ross, Neil Diamond, Prince, most recently, Lance Bass of N SYNC…at least they all had day jobs to fall back on.

In fairness, however, no actress could have pulled anything meaningful out of this tired script, which is a game of count-the-clichés from start to finish.  We first meet Mariah’s character Billie Frank as a child, but the little girl who plays her doesn’t take up much screen time.  By the time the opening credits end, so has Billie’s Oliver Twist childhood.

As an adult, Billie’s voice attracts a record producer who only wants to use her to make his own artist sound good, but a New York club DJ, Dice (no I didn’t make that up, and he’s played by Max Beesley) believes her capable of so much more.  He wants to be her producer and her lover.

Billie’s ride to success is a whirlwind (it seems when this kind of movie is made with an actual singing star in the lead, you never EVER see them struggle to make it).  As her career explodes more and more, Dice suddenly becomes Mr. Conservative, berating her for wearing tight and skimpy outfits that make her look like…I dunno, some Mariah Carey wannabe, maybe?

All of this hurtles towards an ending that almost seems like it’s going to go for something other than the one or two obvious and standard conclusions, until it reaches back for one of them like a safety net.  Well, this ain’t no Lady Sings the Blues, you know, even if the two central characters share the same first name.  

I waited for something redeeming to come out of the picture.  Truth be told, there were moments when I kind of liked old Billie and Dice, and what they seemed to have going.  But films like this toy with these kinds of relationships…they only exist so that they can be manipulated for the necessary dramatic crescendos and dénouements.  Trouble is, when the manipulation is that obvious, you don’t feel like you’re watching much more than an after school special or a TV movie of the week.  If not for the occasional unairable word, that’s exactly what this picture plays like.

Most of the entertainment value comes from unintentional laughs.  For example, the story takes place in 1983, and man, did somebody have a field day with those costumes.  The 80s were my youthful heyday, and I can say very easily that this picture looked like a National Lampoon spoof of the decade rather than the real thing.  Check out those club scenes and tell me if you don’t think they look entirely populated by people who were booted off the set of Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes” video!  Even better is a supporting character who’s so obviously a Prince clone, it’s hysterical…at one point, someone even refers to him as “The Artiste”!

But costumes, script and music aside, everything about Glitter revolves around Mariah Carey’s ability to carry a picture.  She never looks comfortable in her own skin…constantly self aware, always with a plastic smile on her face as though her picture were being taken, often speaking too softly and trying to make up for it with loud singing. 

Frankly, I would have paid real money to see a scene where the actress portraying her mother tears her blouse and yells, “I heff no daughter!”…that would have iced the cake.

Video ****

No complaints in this department…Columbia Tri Star delivers another superb and stellar anamorphic widescreen transfer, smartly framed at 2.40:1 (pan & scan version also included).  It makes the most of the decadently colorful 80s, with its many club scenes, flashing lights, gaudy clothes and more.  The colors all render naturally and with no distortions or containment problems either in light or dark scenes.  Images are sharp and clear throughout, and there is no apparent loss of detail nor increase in grain when lighting gets low.  Flesh tones are natural looking, and there were no noticeable compression artifacts, even with dual layering used to put the full length movie on each side.  Very high marks.

Audio ***1/2

As you might expect, the main attraction in the audio department is the music, and this 5.1 track delivers nicely.  The club scenes feature lots of bass for the .1 channel, and the rear stage is used for some reverb and crowd effects to make the sequences come to life.  In quieter scenes (which really provide the contrast for the dynamic range), dialogue is always cleanly rendered.  I noticed no distortions on either the loud or quiet ends…a good all around effort.

Features **

The disc contains a rather mellow commentary track by director Hall, who speaks very quietly throughout and with occasional pauses.  He basically addresses most interesting points…how the script came together, his shooting style, what it was like working with Mariah and the others, and so on.  The best part is when he unwittingly busts his leading lady out a little bit by mentioning she worked with an acting coach for three years prior to making this movie…THREE YEARS!  Thank GOD he didn’t name the coach, or that poor soul would have never worked again…The disc also contains two videos by Ms. Carey, plus three trailers (one for this movie and two bonus ones) and some filmographies.


All that glitters isn’t gold, but at least Mariah Carey has her day job.  Consider Glitter just another in a long line of weak attempts to turn pop artists into movie stars…I’m sure it won’t be the last.