Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Glitter.”
The Movie: “Glitter”
Starring: Mariah Carey, Max Beesley, Eric Benet
Director: Vondie Curtis-Hall
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A young singer dates a disc jockey who helps her get into the music business, but their relationship becomes complicated as she ascends to superstardom.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 7 percent
Brown: Strap in, folks. We got A LOT to unpack with this one.
Froemming and I got back into our groove last week with “Rambo 3,” AKA “John Rambo indirectly causes 9/11.” Or, I thought we got back in our groove.
No matter what we reviewed last week, nothing was going to prepare us for the infamous Mariah Carey vehicle “Glitter.”
Look, there will always be a spot in my heart for Mariah Carey. To be frank (a little too frank), between Carey in the “Honey” music video along with Jennifer Lopez, that was my sexual awakening as a teen. And, Carey’s voice has always been amazing.
Her acting… well, not so much.
When this movie was about to come out, I remember being in California visiting family and seeing posters everywhere for it. Then, I remember the aftermath: Mariah’s “TRL” meltdown and the mental gymnastics that blamed 9/11 for the movie’s poor performance. This, of course means that John Rambo is also indirectly responsible for Mariah Carey’s mental breakdown.
Recently, the soundtrack to this movie reached number one on iTunes, reminding me this movie exists and that’s what brings us here today.
So Froemming, I got to go warm up on my marimba. Give me your first thoughts on “Glitter.”
Froemming: There were two tragedies on that dark day of Sept. 11, 2001. First is the obvious: The “Glitter” soundtrack was released.
The second is just as obvious: The terrorist attack on our great nation at the hands of cowardly, gutless mad men.
Bob Dylan also released an album that day, so I blame him just as much as John Rambo for that dark, dark Tuesday.
When you suggested this, I went blind with rage. One, I hate musical movies starring Mariah Carey. Two, I hate the musical stylings of Mariah Carey. So going in, this movie already had two strikes against it.
It wasn’t a question of if there was going to be a strike three, but a when. That happens pretty quickly in the movie for me: Night club singer brings her daughter into a den of sin.
But before we get into house fires, DJs and Terrence Howard, Brown why don’t you set this up for us.
Brown: We are whisked away to a ‘50s jazz club setting, which already makes little sense to me because this part of the movie is supposed to take place in the ‘70s, thus beginning a trend in this movie where it has no (REDACTED) idea what time it takes place in.
On stage is Lillian Frank, whose doing a solid job performing some soulful singing to the crowd. In that crowd is a (REDACTED) pre-teen child, which turns out to be Lillian’s daughter Billie in what I imagine is the only time CPS should have been called to a Bring Your Daughter to Work Day.
Also turns out that Lillian is drunk on stage and asks Billie to help her sing one of her songs. Sure, little Billie turns heads but how is NO ONE in this bar taking this child away from Lillian? This could have been a school night for all we know!
Froemming: From my understanding of parenting in the 1970s, kids stayed in the car while the parents got hammered in the bar. That way they could enjoy a fun night without hearing their child demand food or a bed or whatnot. So, these patrons are probably as confused as we are, but for generational differences.
Young Billie and her alcoholic mother are next seen banging on some schmuck’s door in the middle of the night. Lillian wants money from Billie’s father because she rightfully got fired for being drunk on the job, which in the ‘70s had to be pretty impressive since everyone was probably drinking at work then, if the TV show “Mad Men” is to be believed. He gives her the money and they leave.
We then seen Lillian smoking while almost snoozing, so obviously this woman is going to burn down the house, but not in the fun “Talking Heads” sort of way, but in the literal way.
Brown: Well, you think disaster averted because Billie does take a cigarette out of her sleeping mom’s hand in an earlier scene. But lo and behold, Mom needed another heater after a long day of not working. It was like watching the sad ending in “Wayne’s World.”
Because of what I can describe as her addiction to cigarettes and naps, the state takes Billie away from Lillian and puts her in foster care.
In the foster home, Billie meets what will become her lifelong friends in Louise and Roxanne. And their first question to her: Are you Puerto Rican? I’m having trouble with this like Jack Donaghy in “30 Rock” in asking if they’re being racist? Because that sounds racist.
Froemming: Kids say the darndest things my friend. Also, I think that was the first question you asked me when we met, which was very odd.
Anyway, we leap into the future of the 1980s at a nightclub, where Billie, Louise and Roxanne are dancing the night away in some disco in New York. And this is the first time in a movie that takes place in this era, where at a nightclub scene we hear “Heart of Glass” by Blondie and nobody whips out their cocaine. That really baffled me.
These three are dancing and singing, I don’t remember exactly why there was singing. I believe there was a rap battle going on where people shared the mic to spit their fire and then Billie gets it and ruins it all with her angelic voice.
And then Timothy (Terrence Howard) discovers these three talented women, and he’s going to exploit the hell out of them!
Brown: He’s starting a girl group. And by that, we mean he has Billie, Louise and Roxanne as background singers/dancers for Sylk, who sings like the most drunk woman at a karaoke night who will ALWAYS pick a Disney song. But, they need the money.
While recording, Timothy pulls a Milli Vanilli and turns down Sylk’s mic and turns up Billie’s mic because she can, you know, sing.
After making their ho-hum ‘80s song, a tape of it gets in the hands of Dice, who is one of the hottest DJs in New York, if not the country. I think he also owns the club? I dunno.
Anyways, Dice listens to the tape for, like, four seconds and thinks “Damn, this is fresh” and seconds later, Sylk and co. are on stage performing. Umm, Dice, if you got them performing, maybe be familiar with what they’re doing beforehand instead of finding out literally seconds before they hit the stage.
Froemming: In the coke-fueled ‘80s, nobody had time to waste doing that, Brown. Dice also somehow has an accent that touched on all five boroughs of New York, which made me hate him even more.
Dice hears Billie singing and realizes the true talent of this group. He offers them the moon in exchange to work with him. One problem: They have a verbal contract with Timothy. Dice says they do not have to worry and he cuts a deal with the man: $100,000 for this group he has just met and has no idea about them other than one has a nice voice.
Timothy agrees to this. And he pops in and out of this movie wondering where the hell his money is, which is the one continuity aspect of the film I enjoyed. Also because later he shoots Dice dead.
Brown: This movie tries so much to treat Timothy like a pimp by his attire and wanting a sum of money but it’s PG-13 so it won’t. I would say that perhaps that is a deep commentary on the music industry but there is NO WAY this movie works on that deep a level.
Under Dice’s tutelage, Billie starts coming up with hit songs that sound… like every generic ‘80s song you’ve ever heard. Like yeah, Billie has a great voice but you’re surrounding it with terrible ‘80s synth and grunting noises. Naturally, because of all the time they’re spending together, Dice starts having feelings for Billie.
With her mediocre, generic sound, Billie gets signed by Guy Richardson and that’s apparently a big deal? I mean, Guy Richardson is played by Dorian Harewood, who was 8-Ball in “Full Metal Jacket” so that’s a big deal, I guess. I’m just happy he survived that nasty run-in with the sniper.
OK, so when Billie gets signed, Dice and her walk into the office and the record label is there celebrating with champagne and are acting like this deal had already been done. Umm, movie, can we have Billie sign and then have this scene? Or, if she’s signed already, why the (REDACTED) have this (REDACTED) scene in the first place?!
Froemming: And like many a rock star movie before it, we begin to see the cracks in the facade of celebrity. First, the label is not wild about Billie’s friends, and have them axed from a video they are shooting. Next, we see the raw jealousy of Dice, who isn’t wild about the sexualization of his girlfriend and the label thinking maybe a better, more seasoned producer might be better than this idiot who runs a club in New York.
Brown: Before we go further, can we talk about how Billie and Dice get together in the first place?
So right away, BIllie’s friends are doing the “OMG, is this a date” thing with her when it’s completely unnecessary when they’re been chummy and holding hands in public SEVERAL times before this.
Then, when Dice shows up with a limo… pretty sure the limo doesn’t have a driver. He’s all “complements of the record label” but again, no driver. I think he’s Melrose from “GLOW” and drives a limo around because he used to be a limo driver.
THEN, they go a French restaurant where Dice buys Billie escargot, AKA snails. Great first-date food… He also puts Billie’s napkin on her lap like she’s some uncivilized slob instead of a beautiful woman in a dress who has clearly been on a date before. She can place her own napkin, you future #MeToo horror story.
After talking Billie into his apartment that NO DJ could ever afford, Dice seduces Billie by playing the marimba. Take lessons, thirsty men of the world: xylophone-like instruments can help you bed women like Mariah (REDACTED) Carey.
Final thing I’ll say: Dice calls Billie bad in bed. She’s all “I don’t normally do this,” and he’s all “Oh, I can tell.” Billie, you gonna take that kind of (REDACTED) shade from a guy who wears a (REDACTED) necklace with his (REDACTED) stupid nickname on it?
Dice is a garbage person.
After all that, I am struggling to recall what happens next. Also because this movie is (REDACTED) terrible.
Oh yeah! So, Dice butts heads with the label and concedes to let Billie work with more talented, less scuzzy looking people. And one night, Billie comes home to find Timothy in their apartment. A while back, Dice told old Timothy that he was not going to honor their contract, a shrewd business move for sure, but it seems like less of a headache to pay the guy rather than have to deal with him popping into their home like a violent, sociopathic Kramer.
Timothy spills the beans to Billie on the contract dispute. He also threatens to hurt her, once again blurring the lines of a pimp and a music manager. Also, so much of this felt like it was the ’90s that I would be continually shocked at the few reminders that this is, in fact, 1983.
So was does Dice do when he hears all this? Why, he violently attacks Timothy in front of a bunch of police officers!
Brown: It’s here where Billie finds out about Dice’s deal with Timothy since she had to bail her boyfriend out of jail instead of performing on this movie’s “Saturday Night Live” knock-off. The knock-off names in this movie amused the hell out of me. Like, literally the same day as the show, Billie was asked to perform at the USA Music Awards?
Angry with her boyfriend who verbally abused her friends, got drunk, nearly beat a man to death and (perhaps most egregiously) wore an outfit to an award show that consisted of leather pants and a suit jacket over his bare torso, Billie finally leaves this human dumpster fire. Billie also takes her cat Whisper that she had the day she was taken from her mom. And that cat has not aged a day. Time is meaningless in the world of “Glitter.”
Froemming: As we see at the end, her mother also doesn’t age thus leading me to believe Lillian and this cat are Highlanders.
So Billie is heartbroken by this breakup. She records a duet with some guy named Rafael that I thought for sure would be her next love interest, and a giant step up from Dice. But no, they record a song and Rafael is never seen again.
But Dice is still around.
Dice, in his depression, decides to write a song on his piano for Billie. At least he is expressing himself in a healthy way, and not beating a man nearly to death like before.
Brown: Quick aside with Rafael. When we see him and Billie meet at the USA Music Awards practice, Rafael is playing this soulful piano song, much like how Billie’s mom would have done. And, they talk about collaborating at one point, which helps put Dice’s downward spiral in overdrive. So when they do collaborate, what do they create? Another crappy disco-pop song with a sound that I think Prince’s estate should sue over. It would have made a more interesting movie if this was a point where Billie got out of the pop bubble and made the music she wanted to make. But no. We get this dumbassery.
Froemming: All the songs in this movie sounded like this to me.
Now we head toward the end of this hot mess of a project that drove Carey insane like Brian Wilson before her, only he stayed in bed for years and she went nuts on Carson Daly, who probably deserved it because he is a giant (REDACTED).
Billie has somehow sold Madison Square Garden, even though she has one album out and we have not seen any huge success on her part yet. Sure. And Dice is writing his song for her, in a kind of stalkery way.
But they flip the stalker roles on us suddenly!
Billie just walks into Dice’s apartment (has this man never heard of a lock before?), sees the song he is writing and his comically large ticket to her show. She kisses the parchment of paper where his song is written and leaves a little “love you” thing.
Dice comes home, finds his ex has broken into his dwelling and left him a cryptic message exposing her psychotic obsession with him. Personally, I would have called the cops and bought a gun.
But does he call the cops? Nope, on his way to either the police station or the concert, Timothy sneaks out of a car and shoots Dice dead.
It’s the best scene in the whole movie. Dice dies of a shoulder wound.
The best part of Dice being cutdown in his prime? The local news station covering it says there are no suspects. I have one. What about the guy HE ALMOST BEAT TO DEATH A FEW DAYS BEFORE? You know, the guy who broke into his home and threatened his girlfriend?
Brown: I question why a guy like Dice, who owns a lot of expensive musical equipment, lives in an amazing apartment in New York AND who has a man out there with a vendetta looking for him, doesn’t lock the door in his (REDACTED) place.
And this brings me to a question that still bugs me: You’re a world-renowned DJ on the cover of SPIN. You’re a record producer. You may be a club owner. You have a girlfriend who has a number-one album and is gonna play Madison Square Garden. Would it really be THAT hard to get your hands on $100,000 to pay Timothy? I feel like if you can afford that apartment and all that musical equipment (including the lame Yamaha keyboard Billie got for your birthday), you can pay that.
No, Dice just wanted to fleece Timothy. I’m not saying the man deserved to get shot dead. But he kinda deserved something bad to happen to him.
Froemming: That’s the difference between you and I: I am saying the man deserved to be shot dead by Timothy, whom he fleeced out of $100,000 and beat the snot out of when he came around asking for the money he owed him. Dice had it coming, man, he rolled the dice of fate and lost because he got greedy.
And the news of his death comes on the TV just before Billie hits the stage for her Madison Square Garden concert. And I am not going to lie, I fast forwarded through the song because I didn’t want to listen to it. Dice was a garbage human with a questionable accent and shady business dealings who insulted her friends and had a streak of violence in him. Only Billie is shedding tears for him here.
Brown: No, Billie is not shedding tears. Because Mariah Carey is a turrible actress and she CANNOT EMOTE WHATSOEVER. Mariah trying to force herself to cry is like watching someone drink a spoonful of vinegar.
SHE’S NOT EVEN SHEDDING A TEAR WHEN HER BOYFRIEND WAS FOUND MURDERED!
Froemming: Who is worse at emoting: Billie or Bella Swan?
Brown: Can’t believe I’m saying this, but Billie.
With her lack of emotions, I wanted the soft “Lovin’ You”-like ballad music that’d play during transitions to be replaced with this.
And Billie’s song for Dice, it’s your typical moment in a music movie where a singer goes into a song for the first time and the band, having never practiced it, knows what to play instinctively. Hell, even the guy working the lights has the right laser show to accompany such a heartfelt performance…
Froemming, I have the sneaking suspicion that this movie wasn’t good.
Froemming: That suspicion is correct, sir. And at the end, with her boyfriend shot dead on the mean streets of New York City, his last note arrives telling her “they” found her mother. Who is “they” you ask? Why, it was this vague government place she walked into asking where her mother is. I’ve never heard of the Department of Finding Random People — and I feel it is a waste of tax dollars — but in this movie it is apparently a thing.
Brown: I’m sure they got furloughed in the government shutdown.
Froemming: If there was a program that needed shutting down, it is the Department of Finding Random People. You know, maybe some people don’t want to be found. And our tax dollars should not be footing the bill for not-wanted-to-be-found people to be found.
Anyway, her mom is in Maryland, clean and sober and probably hasn’t burned down a house with her careless smoking in some time.
Brown: I just looked it up: New York City to Maryland is gonna take three-and-a-half to four hours. You can’t stop at home quick for a change of clothes, Billie? No, OK, show up to this farmhouse in your gown and heels. You can tell the moment she steps out of the limo Mariah thought “Heels were a bad choice.”
And Billie’s mom has not aged. In fact, she kinda looks younger. Is everyone Benjamin Button in this universe?
Brown: Mother and daughter are reunited, and Billie… apparently feels nothing because Mariah Carey can’t emote on command. This and “Twilight” are the only movies I remember typing in my notes, in all caps, “EMOTE, DAMN YOU!”
And while I feel like we’ve only skimmed through this movie, this feels like the place to end this. So Froemming, I gotta avoid paying $100,000 to the guy from “Empire,” so why don’t we head to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: This movie fascinates me with how truly terrible it is. If you enjoy bad movies the way Froemming and I do, then absolutely. If you’re a normal person who enjoys quality cinema, kill this movie with fire.
Froemming: No. This was a bad movie. Avoid it.