Elvis Presley, Cher, Madonna and Mariah Carey have already done it – and each with varying degrees of success. Now pop princess Britney Spears has joined the gravy train of musical celebrities making that great leap into the equally precarious world of film acting.
Spears’ film debut in Crossroads is neither surprising nor terribly adventurous as she gingerly dips a first toe into the cinematic whirlpool. She plays Lucy, a bright high-school graduate with a talent for music, who hooks up with two childhood friends after years apart.
This is the dubious foundation for a good old road movie, a route peppered with self-discovery and moments of insight. The three girlfriends have skeletons rattling in their closets, which are revealed as they are driven to California by token hunky love interest Ben. Lucy is on a quest to see her estranged mother. Mimi is pregnant, and sassy diva Kit has battled with eating disorders- so Spears’ character bags the least controversial social problem.
The trip is punctuated with tearful moments and interludes of song- mainly from Spears’ current self-titled album- funnily enough. The action, as such, cruises along quite breezily, although the plot suffers from twists of a very dubious nature and the most memorable parts are cheesy to the core.
Spears naturally nabs the handsome man of this set piece. When he asks to hear her poetry and then sets it to music, be prepared to be gripped by overwhelming nausea. And the initial gasps at Spears’ character losing her virginity to Ben are swiftly followed by further need for the sick bucket as we cut to the Pacific surf crashing into the shore – a corn-fed image from another cinematic era.
Spears the actress is a closer one to call. She appears to have an ability to act, yet is seriously hampered by being a world famous pop singer. It is difficult to appreciate that she was playing another character, not helped by her fictional role being all too similar to reality. Her unknown contemporaries outshone her by being obscure- both Zoe Saldana and Taryn Manning put in decent performances, despite being saddled with one-dimensional, stereotyped roles.
For adults, this film raises more laughs than it should. But teenagers, who are clearly the intended audience, will enjoy it. Not only is it plumped up with some quite serious issues, but it has fun, love and an extremely famous star topping the bill.
For a first effort, Spears is playing it very safe. Crossroads will certainly not bag her any Oscars, and is easy to pull apart even if you are the mildest cynic. We will have to wait and see if Britney’s film career grows and ventures into more challenging territory. Whether she will manage to pull off a big success where so many pop stars have failed before her remains to be seen.