on September 21, 2001 by Francesca Dinglasan
Pop diva Mariah Carey makes her first bigscreen star turn in "Glitter," a thinly-veiled biographical rags-to-riches tale about an impoverished, biracial little girl who grows up to become the singing sensation of New York City. Although production notes insist that the film's Billie Frank is not in fact the same high-note hitting, microminiskirt wearing Glitter gal as Miss Mariah, fans and observers of Carey are likely to notice that the chanteuse-turned-actress bears more than just a passing resemblance to her onscreen incarnation.

   Set in 1983--minus the era-appropriate hairstyles, clothing and general ambience--the film unfolds the tale of club dancer Billie, who finds it hard to trust people, having grown up a social services ward after her loving but drugged-out mother (Valarie Pettiford) neglects to retrieve the girl as promised. Billie and her fellow ghetto childhood pals Louise (Da Brat) and Roxanne (Tia Texada) get discovered by an unscrupulous producer (Terrence Howard), who uses Billie's voice to dub over the recordings of one of his protegees. Coming to the rescue is celebrated club deejay Julian Dice, aka DJ Dice (Max Beesley), who takes over as Billie's manager and producer--and lover. As Billie's star begins to rise, eventually outshining Dice (who once upon a time was proclaimed "DJ of the Year," as a framed cover of Spin Magazine announces), he becomes increasingly controlling, possessive and jealous, threatening not only their relationship, but Billie's career as well.

   Though unintentional laughs are there to be had--a brokenhearted Billie spontaneously writing lyrics to a tune being composed by Dice across town is particularly memorable--"Glitter" never quite crosses into the so-bad-it's-good realm to make the film worthwhile. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that Carey isn't downright awful, managing to carry out her tearful scenes with eyes that actually brim. That's little compensation, however, for an entirely predictable plot that would surely crumble under the weight of its cringe-inducing dialogue if it weren't for the numerous musical interjections from the pic's accompanying soundtrack.

   Perhaps what "Glitter" represents more than Carey's real-life road to fame are the spoils that come with her achieved celebrityhood, considering that the film takes the notion of "vanity piece" to another level. With the sole exception of the demure, modest Billie herself, basically any character with speaking lines seems required to heap lavish compliments upon the songbird's voice. And Carey's voice, as her award-winning recording career and string of number one singles prove, is exceptional. It's her albums, however, and not "Glitter," that's gold. Starring Mariah Carey, Max Beesley, Da Brat, Tia Texada, Terrence Howard and Valarie Pettiford. Directed by Vondie Curtis Hall. Written by Kate Lanier. Produced by Laurence Mark. A Fox release. Drama/Romance. Rated PG-13 for some sexuality, some language and brief violence. Running time: 105 min

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