Ben Okri, the famed post-modern novelist, once said:
“We plan our lives according to a dream that came to us in our childhood and we find that life alters our plans. [Yet, at the end – from a rare height – we also see that our dream was our fate.]”
Coincidentally, it’s that same belief in the inevitability of fulfilling one’s dreams that is very much alive in Director Salim Akil’s adaptation of the 1976 cult classic, “Sparkle.” Set in 1960’s Detroit – the home of “Hit Factory” Motown – the film alludes back to a time when soulful pop music ruled the airways and the ability to capitalize on that sound equaled success.
Pop and R&B songstress, Jordin Sparks, stars as “Sparkle Anderson” – the film’s bright-eyed and innocent title character whose quest for the limelight transforms into a tale of love, loss and the perils of fame. Already a ghostwriter for her seductive older sibling, “Sister” (Carmen Ejogo), our first introduction to Sparkle is fittingly at a smoky nightclub that the girls have snuck out to attend. Due to their mother’s disdainful attitude toward showbiz, Sparkle, Sister and the Anderson middle sister, “Dolores” (Tika Sumpter), are forced to hide their love for secular music and lead a seemingly virtuous and church-cultivated lifestyle. Therefore, when Sparkle meets “Stix” (Derek Luke), the charming and ambitious young impresario who hopes to turn the Anderson sisters into the next groundbreaking act, the newly formed trio is forced to keep their ambitions a secret.
The late legendary pop icon, Whitney Houston, gives the performance of her life as Sparkle’s mother, “Emma,” and artfully manages to excel in her role, yet still share great chemistry with the cast. Although Emma’s highly religious and somewhat overbearing demeanor later become a huge problem, you can’t help but admire Houston’s “tough love” portrayal of a mother who deeply loves her daughters yet doesn’t know when to relinquish control.
Mike Epps, who plays Satin Struthers – a comedian who earns his trade by making disparaging jokes about the Black community for White audiences – and Omari Hardwick, who plays Stix’ cousin, Levi, round out the rest of the cast, and add extra depth to what could have been just another movie about “making it.” Epps is convincingly excellent in his first serious role and proves he has the range to one day become an acting heavyweight.
Although “Sparkle” can easily be described as a cautionary tale about the highs and lows of fame, the more accurate characterization would be a journey of strength and self-discovery. “Sparkle” not only movingly captures the spirit of never giving up on your dreams, but in the end, just Ben Okri envisioned, proves that dreams really are our fates.