It would be difficult to say anything about the 2012 remake of the 1976 film Sparkle without mentioning the truth for which it’s probably best known and for which it will be remembered — as Whitney Houston’s final screen performance. The film tells the story of a girl, Sparkle (Jordin Sparks), one of a trio of tight-knit sisters growing up in 1960s Detroit who form a girl group in hopes of catching the wave of excitement about the Motown sound that’s sweeping the nation. Poised for success, their dreams are tempered by their strong, domineering mother who isn’t supportive of their show business ambitions, as well as their unpreparedness for life in the spotlight that threatens their family unity.
Grammy winner Houston passed away prior to the film’s release, but as an obviously seasoned veteran of the music industry who knew more than a little about its potential pitfalls and dark sides, she was more than qualified to take on the role of Emma, the girls’ mother, in Sparkle. Emma is a woman who grew up in the music business and who wants to continue raising her daughters in the quiet, pious life grounded in the home, where gospel singing is their only artistic outlet and popular music is shunned. “She wants them to stay her little girls, but of course, they grow up,” Houston said of the character during filming. “Her oldest daughter goes to New York and comes back home with a New York attitude, so trying to keep her girls grounded and not let the influences of what was happening with the music and dancing overwhelm her family, is her most important mission.”
Director Salim Akil (Jumping the Broom) admits to getting emotional when having to talk about Houston and her role in the film, but he insists she played Emma for all she was worth. “What she’s giving you in this film is what she’s given consistently since we’ve known her as an artist, and that is quality; subtlety; knowing how to play the quiet moments and knowing how to restrain herself in the bigger moments, so that her Emma anchors the movie,” Akil says. “She was excited about playing it, and she’s amazing in it.”
Sparkle is available on Video On Demand starting Nov. 29. Check your cable system for availability.
Photo: © 2012 Stage 6 Films, Inc. Credit: Alicia Gbur