In this day and age of Toddlers & Tiaras and Dance Moms and My Child’s Reading On Grade Level, So She’s A Super Genius and You Might Want to Give her a TV Show and Make her Famous and Fine, As her Mother, I’ll Star in it Too!, the plot of Sparkle just doesn’t make sense.
With all due respect to the late Whitney Houston, her character as an overprotective mother just doesn’t ring true. For those of you who are planning to see the movie, stop reading because the crazy train’s pulling into spoiler city and I’m about to talk about the plot in detail.
So we’re in Detroit and it’s the late ’60s. (But twist, we’re not in the movie Dreamgirls.) Emma (Whitney Houston) raised three daughters who she brought up to respect the lord and follow in her god-fearing footsteps. Their only career options are marrying a nice man or going to med school. Sorry, that’s the way the cookie crumbles in this movie full of beautiful singing voices and treacherous plot holes.
The eldest sister, who’s confusingly enough named Sister (Carmen Ejogo), returned from NYC after failing at building a life there and now drives her mother crazy by being single and 30. Ugh, the ingratitude of that one. Next in line is Dee (Tika Sumpter), she’s full of spunk and brains. Naturally, she’s going to med school. And finally there’s Sparkle (Jordin Sparks), the meek little church mouse who’s a phenomenally gifted songwriter and singer. Therefore, her mother wants her to get married to a church-going man and forget about that music nonsense.
And therein lies my major problem with this film. (My minor problem being that Emma used the most eclectic baby naming book in the world.) We’re shown from the very first scene in the film that Sparkle possesses an amazing talent that’s extremely rare — she’s a female singer/songwriter who’s music can excite a crowd. After hearing her songs, up-and-coming music manager Stix (Derek Luke) immediately wants to help her and her sisters put together an act and get a record deal.
So they do that and they do amazingly well as a group. Sure there’s a few snafus with Sister getting into drugs. But it wouldn’t be a movie about talented people without a few lines of coke. Before long they’re opening up for Aretha Franklin. Yes, that Aretha Franklin. However the whole time that they’re becoming a famous girl group, their mother thinks they’re asleep in their beds. You see, they’ve been sneaking out at night to perform. When Emma finally turns on the TV one night, sees them performing and realizes what’s going on, she’s infuriated.
She tells Sparkle that her dream’s nonsense and her songs are stupid and every other horrible thing a parent could say to her aspiring singer/songwriter daughter. And it makes no sense because her dreams aren’t nonsense. Emma catches them opening for Aretha Franklin. ARETHA FRANKIN! If that doesn’t scream “your child is talented!” then I don’t know what does.
Sparkle defends herself and ends up moving out to pursue her dream. Naturally her mother doesn’t support her because her mother’s horrible — and possibly also deaf. But then, at the very end, in a scene right out of Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, she has an ephiphany that her daughter’s actually going to make it and shows up for her performance.
Sparkle is all like, “Mama! You came!” and her mother’s all like, “I wouldn’t miss it for the world!” and the audience is all like, “um, but you almost did because you kicked Sparkle out your house for even attempting to pursue this career and now you show up when she’s about to sign a record deal and you’re kind of the worst fair weather fan ever?”
Does this mother exist outside of movie world? This mother who’s completely blind to her child’s talent? Even when everyone else is telling her that her child’s actually a prodigy and possibly the next big thing in the music industry.
I don’t think so and that’s why I couldn’t get into this movie. In real life, Emma would be the one driving her daughter around the city, getting her meetings with record producers, introducing her to the right people and encouraging her to sing and write as much as possible.
Because when your child’s as talented as we’re told Sparkle is, you don’t let her settle for a nice husband. In a world where every mother thinks her child deserves her own TV show for being able to dress herself, it’s impossible to believe there’s one out there who purposefully sabotages her child.
(Photo: Hello Beautiful)