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Glitter Glutton

nyone in search of justification for Mariah Carey's month-long sojourn in self-help need look no further than Glitter. If bad acting is contagious, this misguided demi-thesp should be quarantined.

In her feature-film debut, Carey portrays Billie Frank, a hard-on-her-luck singing sensation whose skyrocket ride to the stratosphere proves dizzying. Abandoned by her mother before adolescence, Billie is left to face the world alone, with no memento of maternity but her fabulous vocal talents. Ending up in New York City, she keeps her feet on the ground but keeps reaching for the stars. Err, well, she hits the club circuit, hooks up with an up-and-coming producer, scores a record contract and conquers the charts in a whirlwind of events so predictable you'd almost have to guess they'd really happened. Maybe that's because they did.

As should be quite obvious, Billie's story is largely Carey's story, which is why it's so hard to explain why the eight-octave diva has such trouble crafting any modicum of multidimensionality from her "character." Like a cross-eyed ho in headlights, Carey stumbles through scene after scene wearing the same ridiculous expression--a self-effacing, half-surprised look of faux-coquettishness. The only time Carey really connects with Billie is during bitching tirades, when the diva's Miss Thang sensibilities emerge unfettered. In these rare moments of inspiration, it's unclear why Glitter wasn't a documentary.

But the film's problems don't start or end with Carey. Seemingly envisioned as How to One-Up The Bodyguard, Glitter is bankrupt on concept and originality. Designed with the express purposes of introducing Carey to the big screen and resurrecting her long-dead girl-next-door fa?ade, the film sacrifices any attempt at legitimacy by succumbing to commercial, artistic and undoubtedly egotistical constraints.

Other notable mishaps and low points are numerous. Why the film is set in the early O80s is a mystery. Some of the wardrobe choices are appropriately Reagan-era--and a few even achieve the laugh-out-loud level of Wedding Singer kitsch--but Carey and her deejay producer beau, Dice (Max Beesley), could just as easily be modern-day rip-offs of J-Lo and P. Diddy. Ironically, Glitter achieves its intended period only in the visual texture of the film--the dark, grainy filters used for most daylight scenes have all the charm of M.A.S.H. reruns. And Beesley's unbearable New Yawk accent is so vintage Marky Mark you'd almost wish this were a film about sign-language.

If there's anything that should've gone right with Glitter, it's the soundtrack. Sadly, the O80s influence appropriately extended to the music created for the film, leaving Carey with a string of bee-bop "Holiday" wannabes and maudlin ballads even Air Supply wouldn't have recorded. The unfortunate byproduct is that Glitter's penultimate tribute scene, in which Carey performs the meandering "Never Too Far," falls flat on all planes, marking the nauseating nadir of an unholy cinematic misadventure.

One thing is certain: If Carey ever does recover from this self-indulgent ego odyssey, she'd better plead insanity. And after seeing Glitter, no one could argue with her.

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