We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Mariah Carey is a singer. That’s not an introduction but a reminder to anyone who sits through Glitter feeling as if he’s watching a high school play whose lead got picked solely because she’s pretty. A vanity project better suited to late-night cable than the big screen, Carey’s semiautobiographical tale is a cliché-ridden amateur hour-and-50-minutes that’s interesting only when she’s showing off her pipes. The rest of it is hackneyed, often freakishly stylized, and ploddingly paced. Carey plays Billie, the daughter of a popular jazz singer who abandons her when her unspecified problems get out of control (scene: tragic song, mournful stills, kitten). We next see Billie working as a club dancer, and things move pretty quickly from there: After Billie and two friends are signed as backup singers for a woman who can’t sing, a slimy DJ recognizes Billie’s voice as leading the track the women recorded together and becomes her producer, lover, and friend. Billie soon sells out Madison Square Garden, DJ Dice (Max Beesley, or Denis Leary without the humor) turns angry and jealous of the attention she’s getting, and Billie leaves (scene: tragic song, mournful stills, cat). Carey is an awful actress, resorting to a lot of chest-clutching and forehead-holding to express the horror of various setbacks, and her supporting cast isn’t much better—though when you ask a down-wit-dat character to enthuse, “She must have put some hours in with a vocal coach, man!” the actor can’t really be blamed. At least director Vondie Curtis Hall’s camera tricks add some unintentional laughs (the scene in which Dice spotlights Billie in a pass-the-mike contest is a highlight: Dice points to Billie, time stops, and the crush of faces surrounding her melt together—the only thing missing is a halo). The obvious moral of the story is that Billie/Carey triumphs despite adversity, but even if you feel really, really bad for her when a video director wants her to forgo her revealing dress for a revealing bikini, the only pain you’ll be experiencing by the end of Glitter is your own. —Tricia Olszewski