• U.S.

Cinema: Some Sweet Notes

2 minute read
Jay Cocks

SPARKLE

Directed by SAM O’STEEN Screenplay by JOEL SCHUMACHER

Imagine a rock-‘n’-roll act starting out in the late 1950s, a group starring three sisters, slightly reminiscent of the Supremes. That is the notion behind Sparkle, a casually enjoyable excursion into the predictable heartbreak and unlikely triumphs of show biz. Sister (Lonette McKee) is the eldest, beautiful, with a fatal instinct for the wrong kind of man. Dolores (Dwan Smith) is vaguely uneasy about everything, whether it is performing or walking down the Harlem streets. Sparkle, the youngest (Irene Cara), is the most innocent, and perhaps the most talented. Under the tutelage of a good fellow named Stix (Philip M. Thomas), who also loves her, Sparkle works her way from a hit record to a solo spot at Carnegie Hall.

It is all pretty silly, but, against the odds. Sparkle is often pleasant and even funny. This is no small achievement, given the generally barbaric level of the script. Sam O’Steen, a talented film editor (Catch-22, Chinatown) directing his first feature, has photographed much of the film in close, with the light kept low. The intimate style is effective, and it helps somewhat to disguise budgetary limitations. Sparkle was made for lunch money, and it shows. What shows more prominently, though, is the distinctive charm of Actors Thomas, Cara and McKee, and the promise of a new director who managed things better than could realistically have been expected. J. C.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com