Box Office Failures Week: Glitter (2001)

Mariah Carey went into this movie as probably the biggest diva on the planet, having emancipated herself from her first marriage to Tommy Mottola and her contract with Columbia Records to become exactly who she wanted to be.

She also pretty much lost her mind.

As she started the publicity tour for this movie, she’d leave long and rambling voicemails to her fans — her lambs, as she called them — on her website. And then there were the TV appearances. On BET’s 106 & Park, she hid behind pillows and claimed that she was living “one day that was continuous.” There was also the infamous TRL appearance on MTV,  where she emerged in a nightshirt giving away ice cream to the audience before discussing therapy and stripping on stage, ending with her yelling, “Mariah Carey has lost her mind!”

See — I told you.

By the end of the month, Carey was hospitalized for extreme exhaustion and had both a physical and emotional breakdown. The movie and soundtrack were delayed for a few weeks, then the attacks on September 11, 2001 happened. And no one wanted to think about music or fun or Mariah Carey going bonkers for a while.

I’m lying. I was ready for this trainwreck the whole time.

Carey herself said, “Here’s the thing that a lot of people don’t know, that movie was released on September 11, 2001 – could there be a worse day for that movie to come out? … I don’t even know that many people even saw the movie.” She’s since referred to the movie as the biggest mistake of her life.

Mariah is Billie Frank, the daughter of a 1970’s nightclub singer who once set their house on fire. She grew up in an orphanage with her two best friends, Louise and Roxanne (Da Brat and Tia Texada), but now all three girls are the backup singers to the host of Top Chef (Padma Lakshmi, the only person in this movie to probably has read The Satanic Diaries, much less be married at one point to its author).

Billie falls for Dice, a DJ who gets her out of her contract with Timothy (Terence Howard) for $100,000, an action that ends up costing him his life just as Billie is about to finally play Madison Square Garden. Man, I fast-forwarded the plot, but that’s pretty much it. Think A Star Is Born without all the crying in bathtubs.

As amazing a singer as Carey is, her five-octave voice does not translate to her ability to emote or carry the lead role. No one else is ready, willing or able to carry her. And look, I may be writing this in my sweatpants, but even I know that some of the fashions in this movie do anything but glitter.

Director Vondie Curtis-Hall — he’s also an actor, you may have seen him on Chicago Hope as Dr. Dennis Hancock — has mostly moved into TV movies about celebrities. Here’s hoping he goes meta and makes a Mariah film.

This movie has left me with so many questions. How old is Billie’s cat? It has to be at least twenty years old or longer. How did she and Dice learn how to telepathically write songs together? Why is no one interesting in this movie? Why did Ann Magnuson sign up for this? Why has the two-and-a-half hour length original cut never surfaced? Could Dice’s pants be any tighter? Are they perhaps his skin? And what’s up with that bicycle outfit that Mariah wears?

Glitter made $5.3 million on a $22 million dollar budget and the soundtrack album ended up being the worst selling record Carey released up until that point, so she was dropped from her Virgin contract, losing around $100 million dollars. Man — I can’t sleep and my total debt is so insignificant next to that amount. And I’ve never showed up and thrown ice cream sandwiches to Carson Daly yet. Maybe there’s hope for all of us. Thanks for showing us the way, Mariah.

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