Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sparkle [2012]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  Roger Ebert (3 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB review
Roger Ebert's review

Sparkle [2012] (directed by Salim Akil, screenplay by Mara Brock Akil [IMDb] based on the story by Howard Rosenman and is a remake of the 1976 original by the same name).  The story was inspired at least in part on the beginnings of the 1960s Motown girl group, The Supremes.  The current version will probably be remembered for a number of things: (1) as the debut film for 2007 (season 6) American Idol contest winner Jordin Sparks [IMDb] (who plays the title role of Sparkle in the film), (2) another triumph for the African-American husband and wife film-making team Salim and Mara Brock Akil (even if due to the popularity of the 1976 original film in the African American community posed risks for them), and perhaps above all (3) the "swansong" for superstar but increasingly troubled Whitney Houston [IMDb] (who played Sparkle's and her two sisters' mother in the film).  Houston was found dead in her hotel room sometime after the shooting of the film apparently the result of an accident following the her use of cocaine.  Since the dangers of drug use in the context of celebrity was very much part of the story in this film (and Houston herself was playing a character who was trying to impress on her three daughters exactly those dangers that she (the character) had experienced first hand in her own life: "Is not my life enough of a cautionary tale for you girls?" she tells the girls at one point), Houston's [IMDb] death following the making of this film perhaps is even more poignant/tragic.

The film itself is set in Detroit in the 1960s.  It's about three young adult sisters -- the oldest named Sister (played by Carmen Ejogo) who's certainly the most driven/outgoing and the one who one would guess "shows the most promise," Sparkle (played by Jordin Sparks [IMDb]) who's much shier than her older sister but is a smiling and sympathetic songwriter, and Dolores (played by Tika Sumpter) who loves her sisters, will go along with them, but is the one who probably listened to her mother the most and thus (to her mother's relief) has other _more sensible plans_ with her life, plans that _don't_ involve "fame, bar halls and lights." (Honestly, _from a parent's perspective_ SO LONG AS THE CHILD PROVES HAPPY, having a "Dolores" among one's children IS A BLESSING.  Indeed, over the years, I've told not a few couples preparing for marriage that the ideal number of kids to have would probably be about 4-5.  That way one kid could die, another could end up in jail a third or fourth could really end up "going his/her own way" but there'd be _a pretty good chance_ that at least one kid would end up being what "one hoped that at least one kid would end-up being."  Otherwise there'd be an enormous pressure for the 1-2 kids to end up fulfilling all (or at least _some_) of the parents' hopes.  And that could be a lot of pressure on an only child or only son/daughter.  Yet the converse is also sad ... the unfulfilled aspirations of the parents for at least one of their kids).

Very well ... the film starts with two of the sisters -- Sister and Sparkle -- having sneaked out of the house to sing at a club, proving to be rather good, so good in fact, that a young man, Styx (played by Darek Luke) would like to manage them.  But how to explain this to mom?

The rest of the film with much good music and many rather simple but basically true life lessons ensues ...

Parents, the film is properly rated PG-13.  Some of the themes of drugs, domestic violence, etc, making poor choices (and the consequences of poor choices effecting the people you love) would really be too much for little kids, but it'd be a good film for teens (perhaps even with one's parents) to see.  All in all "a good discussion piece" for families with kids of high school and approaching high school graduation age.

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