September 29th, 2001. The day I went to see “Glitter.”
Remember how in 1980 Bette Midler came out of nowhere and gave a knockout performance in The Rose as the singer whose quick rise to the top and equally fast descent into fame-induced hell charred the lives of everyone around her? Remember how Bette became the critics darling, got tons of new fans, and received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress to boot?
Well, none of that’s going to happen to Mariah Carey. Nope. None of it. She’ll never live this one down. (Future historians are likely to say that Mariah went straight to Beaches). The New York Post review of Glitter claims that whenever Mariah tries to emote in Glitter she simply looks like she’s lost her car keys. What they didn’t disclose is that not only is it beyond her limited capabilities to even “find her car keys,” but had she managed to find the keys in this movie, she would’ve been promptly out-acted by them.
Yes, Mariah’s problematic as the star of Glitter. (Of the seventeen times she says “what-eh-VUH,” probably only about two are Inside the Actor’s Studio-worthy). The directing is a big problem with Glitter. The nauseating “Let’s pretend this is a Bazz Luhrmann film!” editing style of Glitter is a problem. Hell, as far as I know, the catering service and the cat trainer were problems on the set of Glitter. But the real, systemic, DEEP DOWN problem with Glitter is simply:
The screenwri a couple of years back. Lemme tell ya, that screenplay was her Gentleman’s Agreement compared to this squishy dangle of Razzie bait. It puts the B in Banal.
Here’s a sample of actual dialogue from early on in the film, when Mariah’s character Billie (oh… as in Holiday! Gee thanks, Mom, for sublimating your frustrations at being a boozy lounge singer who never amounted to anything on ME!) first meets Dice, a Sleestak-y looking DJ thing (soon to be her producer-cum-boyfriend) at a downtown club during a theme night called “Least Convincing Recreation of 1983 — EVER”:
DICE: Name’s Dice — like lucky sevens.
BILLIE: I know who you are.
DICE: You do — really?
BILLIE: Yeah — I heard a lot about you.
DICE: Well. Don’t believe everything you hear.
Followed by a pause to allow the charmed audience to finish their peals of laughter and Kleenex away the tears of mirth.
Glitter contains exactly ONE good line. During her first (disastrous, natch) video shoot, lots of little pieces of silver foil are blowing behind Billie and her “comedy relief” backup singers (although the only relief I felt with those two was when they were NOT onscreen) and the director character, in a fake Russian hiss, cuts the action and yells, “The glitter CAN’T overwhelm the artist!” I kid you not. He actually says that. (And a lot of other director-y things in an accent WAY less convincing than Walter “Mr. Chekov” Keonig’s). The irony being, of course, that little silver pieces of foil caught in a wind machine actually ARE capable of overwhelming poor lightweight Mariah Carey.
Now imagine that the producers are asking the screenwriter to come up with a scene to show “you know, how Billie is an unsophisticated girl suddenly caught up in the whirl of Manhattan’s hip downtown scene.”
Great. What on-her-way-to-the-top movie would be complete without one of those scenes? So what did the screenwriter come up with? ESCARGOT! Yes, of course! There is actually a scene in Glitter where the befuddled Billie is served a plate of escargot in a fancy-schmancy restaurant — and she doesn’t know what to do with it! And we don’t even get the satisfaction of watching as Dice breaks the news to her that it’s really snails! She has no intention of eating it, whatever it is. Period!
Sigh. She could’ve at least done a Lucy Ricardo and clipped the snail-holder to her nose and tried one. Even a Pretty Woman Snails-a-Flyin’ Event would be better than simply cutting off the scene before the ached for and all-important snail reveal. O, what could have been.
I didn’t check the credits to see of there was a Script Continuity person hired for this movie. If that’s the person who’s supposed to make sure that all the scenes are strung together with SOME KIND of temporal sensibility, then either they didn’t have one, or he/she was more out of it than Billie’s mom.
OK, so after the “My Mom’s a Drunk and Burned Down the House With Her Cigarette So I Have To Go Live In New York With My Cat” prologue, the movie cuts from Billie as a child to Billie as a club slut in the aforementioned scene at the downtown dance venue. The subtitle says “New York — 1983.” Since Billie and Dice are all innuendo-ing around OUTSIDE, she in satin shorts, sports cap and pigtails that make her look like the bratty girl in Carrie, and he in an oooh-so-tight sleeveless black T and plastic pants number straight from next month’s OUT magazine, one can only assume that it’s NOT the dead of winter. So let’s be generous and say it was a very warm April Fool’s Day. Fine.
Now at the end of the movie, it’s her SOLD OUT (we are reminded a lot) concert at Madison Square Garden. A close up of the ticket stub says “June 30th, 1983.” Hold ON! Are we to believe that this entire movie, her whole glittering Homeresque epic journey from skanky back-up singer to sequin-gowned famous person, took less than 3 months!?!
I call no way.
And I swear that in a scene that shows Dice reading a Billboard magazine blaring the headline “Billie Franklin Sells Out MSG in 20 Minutes,” the issue was dated APRIL 1983! SO… not only is this movie a rags-to-riches story… It’s a TIME TRAVELLING rags-to-riches story! NOW I get it!
Dice gets shot in the chest and dies. Sorry to let that spoiler pounce on you like that, but we need to discuss the “Bad Guy” subplot (which is only slightly more annoying than the “Where’s My Mommie?” subplot). I don’t get it. Early in the movie, Dice offers Billie’s original manager a hundred large (Dice’s hip lingo for $100,000.00, not mine) to buy out her contract. He never pays the guy. So throughout the movie, the bad guy shows up every now and then and threatens to hurt Dice and/or Billie. SO WHY NOT JUST PAY HIM THE $100,000 THEY OWE HIM?
I mean, c’mon… Dice is on the cover of Spin magazine as DJ of the Year, owns a packed dance club (I think he owns it — he keeps calling it “my club”) AND has a beautifully appointed loft! SHE JUST SOLD OUT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN and has had a #1 hit for 10 weeks (another continuity problem). THEY HAVE (or at least can GET) THE MONEY! It’s not like they’re putting the loot up their noses. (This movie seems to think that music people in the 80’s didn’t do drugs — boy now that’s realistic!) But no. They have no intention of living up to their verbal agreement. Instead, they let the problem fester until finally, on June 30th, 1983, (that’s right…Billie’s big night!) the bad guy kills Dice. Billie of course goes on with the show (oh yeah — they’ve broken up at this point — it was a big scene — she took the now ancient cat, but no clothes — and MOVED OUT on his ass) and dedicates her big hit to his memory. The “big hit” that got her to the Garden, by the way, is a cover of “I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On” which I believe in reality was a semi-moderate hit for Mr. Robert Palmer. Perhaps she should’ve done a Candle in the Wind-ish remake called “I Didn’t Mean For You To Turn Up Dead.” Was there anything GOOD about Glitter in the true sense of the word? Well, the ACTUAL songs from 1983 were mostly good, though I don’t think it was the intention of the producers to so thoroughly counter-point the heinousness of the music created for the movie. And Ann “Frantic & Edgy” Magnuson was her usual wonderful self, even if the screenplay couldn’t come up with anything more original for her to do than be a frantic, edgy publicist. I give her the “Gina Gershon in Showgirls Tongue-in-Cheek Award” for probably knowing that a piece of crap she was in, yet running in screaming joy to the bank with her paycheck.
I can’t wait to see this movie again. (On DVD. With deleted scenes!) What I’m NOT going to reveal is the final scene. The scene that wraps it all up is thrown rock stunning, absolutely awe-inspiring in its sublime awfulness. If it weren’t for the rest of the audience in the theater for the Saturday afternoon matinee I attended, (consisting of: two 11-year-old girls and me. Hey maybe they were script consultants!) I would’ve jumped up on my cushy seat and screeched “Jackpot!” over and over. As it was, I simply screamed it in my head. At least I think I was hearing my own voice. I’m not sure. Like poor Mariah, Glitter may have simply tipped me over the edge into temporary insanity.
Hopefully, one day, Mariah will be able to explain it all to James Lipton and again the world will make sense. Until then, I remain, as always,
Overwhelmed by the glitter,