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MOVIE REVIEW: Unapologetically celebratory, ‘Glitter and Doom’ is a post-modern romance perfect for Pride Month 

I love the Indigo Girls. As a kid of 80s and 90s, I grew up to their music and while ‘The Power of Two’ would be their most famous song in the Philippines, it wasn’t my favourite. I found the song so sweet and sentimental in comparison to Emily Saliers other songs, which are more melodically clever and more profound or any of Amy Ray’s more passionate songs. A jukebox musical of their songs sounds like a complete joy (even if I hate jukebox musicals, on principle), added to the fact that the story features a gay love story makes it even more appealing. I was very intrigued by director Tom Gustafson’s ‘Glitter and Doom.’

What I was not expecting was a post-modern musical that plays out more like a queer fantasy than a traditional, conventional movie. My pretentious classic movie leanings made me resist the movie at the start. Every scene feels like a set – the way Gustafson and director of photography Cristian Solano uses the backdrop of Mexico City to make everything feel so magical and dreamy – and even the character designs of his two protagonists feel completely fictional and unreal. Their names, after all, are Glitter and Doom. Glitter (played by an extremely charming Alex Diaz) is a rich kid, flirtatious, and, of all things, wants to go to Paris to clown school. While filming an audition in the streets of their unnamed city, he meets Doom (Alan Cammish). Doom is a budding singer and songwriter, who is trying to audition to play a regular gig at a bar called The Fountain. They bump into each other and there’s an instant attraction. But while the bubbly, optimistic Glitter comes off too strong, Doom quickly builds his walls as a dark cloud seems to be floating over his head.

I was resisting the film at the beginning. ‘Glitter and Doom’ is unapologetically a musical and takes a more atmospheric and thematic approach to storytelling rather than centering the movie with its plot. The love story of Glitter and Doom doesn’t take the normal story beats to develop. They see each other, Glitter hits on Doom, Doom backs away, they sing a song – a mashup of ‘Shed Your Skin’ and ‘Touch Me Fall’ by Indigo Girls – and all of a sudden a understanding is formed. The film, written by Cory Krueckeberg, prefers to make impressions than to hunker down and tell a cohesive story.

Adding to the fantasy, Glitter’s mom (Ming Na Wen) is a high-powered executive, who wants the same for her son. But she used to be a circus performer (which is where Glitter probably gets the fascination to be a clown) and her home is constantly on party mode with hoop dancers and jugglers and members of the queer community. She’s open about her son’s sexuality (such a breath of fresh air) but she seems less enthusiastic about her son wanting to be a clown (understandable). While Doom is constantly surrounded by drag queens and queer people in full regalia. These supporting will suddenly appear when any of the cast members burst out into song (which is often).

It wasn’t until a good 20 minutes when I finally realised the film was taking a post-modern approach to cinema. The film’s structure and style were in conjunction to the non-traditional world of its characters. The moment I accepted the film for what it is rather than what I wanted it to be, I began to see the moments of beauty this film had to offer.

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First of all, the new arrangements and mashups of the Indigo Girls songs used in the film is wonderful. It helps that Cammish and Diaz are excellent singers. They are not just singing, but acting through it so it really adds a depth to the songs. Secondly, Cammish is wonderful at portraying the tortured artist, afraid of not realising his dreams of becoming a singer and falling in love. As the songwriter, he gets to do a lot of the singing and he does it perfectly. But the real star here is Diaz, whose Glitter is so free spirited and spritely but there’s a fear that is hidden underneath that Diaz manages to portray in very subtle ways. Glitter is constantly taking videos and often, Diaz has to look straight into the camera and perform a monologue and he manages to do so with all the emotions both external and internal in full view. It requires a nuanced measure of fragility and verve that he articulates with his whole body. It’s a revelatory performance that’s quite difficult to do in a film that is so tonally whimsical. 

And while the story flits from its neurotic romance between Glitter and Doom, it’s also about realising your dreams and facing your demons (in this case, it’s also related to both protagonists’ mothers). By not focusing on narrative beats but instead painting impressions of moods and emotionally charged moments, amplified by the gorgeous music of the Indigo Girls, the film manages to creep in and twist on your heartstrings. I was absolutely gob smacked, while watching this movie and falling in love with it, that at some point when Cammish starts singing a new version of the classic Indigo Girls hit ‘Closer to Fine’ (with a interpolation of ‘Everything in Its Own Time’) I just started crying. 

There’s a beautiful way by which this film imagines a world where the biggest problems a queer person would have been whether their dreams can come true and if their own fears and demons won’t get in the way of making a sure play at love. It’s a beautifully shot fantasy world that’s tender and sensitive and, sure, it’s easy and it never sweats the hard stuff. But in the landscape of queer cinema, it’s wonderful for a film to just be so unapologetically celebratory of queer lives. As the film leans into its formalist aesthetics, it revels in its fictional tone and just allows the characters to navigate through the darkness of their lives to try and reach that which makes them happy. And for that, on Pride month of all times, is just what is needed.

My Rating:



Glitter and Doom is now showing! Check showtimes and buy tickets here.

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