Once upon a time in a ghetto far far away, a little half-breed girl looked up to her coke-monkey mother (Valarie Pettiford channeling Mad TV’s Debra Wilson channeling Whitney Houston). After Mom teaches her daughter the horrors of dozing with a lit cigarette, social services whisks micro-Glitter and her pet cat, Whiskers, from the ghetto and, eventually, into a ghetto-fabulous, post-disco 1983. Too “woe is me” for the “I want to dance” times, Billie Franklin (Mariah Carey) finds her inner twinkle with the help of DJ Dice (Max Beesley). Back in 1995, Carey could be found rollerblading on Coney Island’s boardwalk with Little Baby Jesus (a.k.a. Ol’ Dirty Bastard), daisy dukes firmly hugging her Botticelli frame. Spiraling toward Earth aboard the Cyclone in her “Fantasy” video, Carey’s daze implied that she wouldn’t know camp if it clapped her in the ass. Six years later, sans Tommy and his Columbia Records, the singer-turned-thespian has seemingly learned to nurture her inner kitsch, giving way to camp Mariah. The retro Glitter is the story of a rising star trying to find her way through the doom and gloom of a lost New York (the one before AIDS and Osama bin Laden). Glitter is Carey’s first star vehicle and, judging by this pop-lore morsel’s self-reflexivity, it may as well be Carey’s own film biography. That Glitter fails to flash-forward to the present and show Carey in age make-up is the film’s biggest missed opportunity. But, then again, who’s to say adult-Glitter would live that long? The zoftig Mariah affords her little-girl-lost role just the right mix of doe-eyed naïveté and Lifetime perseverance. Once Dice spins himself into a ghoulish Mottola-type, Glitter’s eye wanders all over Eric Benet’s Cesar but not before she and her ex-beau hysterically co-write a song using their telepathic abilities. Dice, though, has promises to keep and, in the end, bullets to dodge. And through it all, the words of the film’s tyrant video director ring true: “You can’t let the glitter overpower the artist!” Crazy ol’ Mariah may still be trapped below a heap of glitter-baggage, but Carey’s silver-streaked Billie is a trooper. She leaves her man (with a reemerged Whiskers in tow), sings him an elegy before a crowded Madison Square Garden and finds her lost mommy. So bad it’s good, Glitter springs eternal. Here’s hoping that Carey walks in her shimmery doppelganger’s footsteps.
- Vondie Curtis-Hall
- Kate Lanier, Cheryl L. West
- Mariah Carey, Eric Benét, Kyle Thrash, Chris Tessaro, Max Beesley, Tia Texada, Valarie Pettiford, Emanuel Arruda, Da Brat
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