- There is a lot of talent working here in Sparkle. Curtis Mayfield (Super Fly) does the score and songs, Bruce Surtees (Dirty Harry, Lenny) is the cinematographer, and I find it nearly impossible to believe that this film didn’t make Lonette McKee a massive star. McKee is probably most recognizable to cinephiles for her work with Spike Lee (small roles in Jungle Fever, Malcolm X, He Got Game). She’s 22 years old here and this is her debut- she’s magnetic. The Detroit-born singer and actress is beautiful and gifted- and frankly the film suffers in the last 20-minutes without her
- The film opens on a very nice long take of a stained-glass window as the camera floats down to the choir singing
- Set in Harlem in the late 1950’s- this is basically a riff on the story of the girl singer groups or the story of The Supremes
The song “Something He Can Feel” is very special. O’Steen’s camera swings behind the trio with the spotlight. It is great music and superior cinema—49-minute mark. Aretha Franklin would take over the song for the soundtrack
- The writing is fine as well—the mother (about the character Satin) says “I’ve lived in Harlem all my life… I do know a rat when I see one”
- The camera floats around during a montage as the song carries over. Around the 70-minute mark the McKee character Sister passes. Again, the film struggles to keep the momentum going for the remaining time. There’s another song in a church (formal marker with the opening). O’Steen seems like he’s been moving the camera tactfully for about five straight minutes.
- All of the songs by Mayfield are good, but they know what they have with “Something He Can Feel” and repeat it.
- The Irene Cara character is quiet, she’s supposed to be the story after McKee is gone. She’s too quiet- and I get it, that’s part of the point as she has been in her sister’s shadow. But they should’ve hinted at her talent and shown her rehearsing in private with the handsome Philip Michael Thomas before to gain interest. It is like a track star who waited too long to make their big push to the finish.
- “Loving You Baby” in profile of Cara and Michael Thomas in one take- another great shot
- Recommend but not in the top 10 of 1976