Billie Frank (Mariah Carey) had a troubled childhood because her mother, a singer, had drug problems and after burning down their New York City apartment with a cigarette when she fell asleep, she was forced to give Billie up and place her into care. There the girl met the two best friends she would ever have, but she always wondered what had happened to her mother as they lost touch. Perhaps in tribute to her, she grew up to become a singer herself, but it would be a hard road to success, and she would meet some hurtful people along the way...
Are you crying yet? That's the main goal of Glitter, it seems, to have the audience in floods of tears after all the misfortune that is piled on Billie's head, as if she were a heroine of a Douglas Sirk soap opera of the fifties, but many found their reaction to be gales of laughter instead. It has had many apologists, entirely among the fans of its star, but their voices of encouragement have been drowned out by those who found this far too facile to be anything but a true turkey. Carey only had herself to blame, as apparently the idea for the whole sorry project was hers.
So you would think the film would showcase her abilities as a singer, but bizarrely she barely sings anything close to a whole song until practically the end. Carey must have been nostalgic for the eighties, because that is when most of the story is set, but apart from giving her the excuse to cover snatches of eighties hits in her usual ill-advisedly oversung fashion, there doesn't seem to be much reason for it otherwise and not even the production designer's heart seems to be in the period. What you are not allowed to forget is that this movie takes place in New York, with a montage of landmarks every five minutes: the Chrysler Building appears more often here than it does in Q: the Winged Serpent.
Romance is in the air, so Billie has to have a love interest, who turns out to be Max Beesley putting on an American accent as Dice, so called because of the furry dice hanging from his car's rear view mirror (I think). He is a DJ who spots her talent when she's an overpowering backing singer for a bitchy star, and takes Billie under his wing, but whether Billie has fallen hard for this lad about town is difficult to tell as Carey has decided to avoid going over the top at every opportunity. Unfortunately she goes too far the other way, and barely seems capable of emotion at all: you long for her to let loose with a big scene as she does with her singing, but it never happens.
In an afternoon T.V. movie for the ladies kind of way Dice inevitably lets Billie down, but not before she has established herself as a promising star; perhaps this was intended as reminiscent of the rise of someone like Whitney Houston, the most obvious vocally gymnastic predecessor to Carey, yet it barely reaches the heights of the Maria Vidal story. In fact, although we leave Billie about to overcome her heartache and scale the heights of fame, you'll probably be thinking, well, she was no Yazz, was she? Add in Terrence Howard flatly delivering some menace as a gangster who is after Billie's soul and Eric Benét as a too-good-to-be-true singer-songwriter who will be there for her when her stormy relationship with Dice is over, and you might want to test your tolerance for corn before watching this. If only it had been outrageously trashy enough to be enjoyable. Music by Terence Blanchard.