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Katy Perry: Part of Me (2012)

| July 10, 2012 | 0 Comments

To watch Katy Perry onstage is something akin to visiting a carnival.  Her stage shows are firework displays of lights, colors and outfits that redefine the word “kinky.”  With her Bettie Page hair-style, lollypop dresses and candy-colored stage props, she resembles less a serious artist than some kind of strange anime sex dream.  Under that covering, however, is simply a girl who wants to have fun.

With that, it is our hope that her first feature film Katy Perry: Part of Me will provide some insights.  Yet, if you attend this movie hoping to gain some insights into the pop star that you don’t already know, then chances are you’re in for a big disappointment.  The movie, which is part biography and part concert footage, introduces us to Perry, who is less involved in being a star than she is in putting on a good show.  Most of the movie is made up of backstage and onstage footage from her 2011 California Dreams Tour.  The rest is a brief biography followed by bits and pieces of the backstage preparations while friends, family and co-workers ruminate in standard, overly-familiar comments about how hard she works.

Maybe there isn’t much to tell.  Perry is seen as such a nice girl that there aren’t any other complications to be revealed.  The most interesting bits of the movie are those dealing with her background.  She was born Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson into a strict Pentecostal household in which anything deemed “unsavory” was outlawed.  This included “The Wizard of Oz”, “Alice in Wonderland” and anything to do with MTV (somehow Sister Act 2 was permissable, but not the original).  Early on, she had designs on becoming a gospel singer, until she was visiting a friend’s house and got a look at Alanis Morrisette for the first time.  It was this revelation that would change the trajectory of her career.  On the way up, she was dropped by two labels before finally scoring her first hit, “I Kissed a Girl” in 2008.

The film makes no bones about the irony of connecting her background with what Perry would later create on the stage in the form of both “Alice” and “Oz” and the irony of the fact that her first hit single was a ditty about an experimental lesbian kiss.  There are brief interviews with Perry’s parents and we wait for some comments about how these die-in-the-wool Christian parents feel about their daughter shooting funny foam from her brassiere, but it never comes. Nor do they have any comment on her songs which seem to consist of girl-power messages and sex-tease sentiments directed squarely at young girls. What is refreshing is that unlike most of her contemporaries, Perry’s songs seem to tell a story and are not just a meaningless series of romantic nonsense. We here most of her songs in this movie, but oddly enough, her most powerful song “Circle the Drain”, a powerful ballad about a relationship coming apart under the strain of drug addiction seems missing here.

The movie offstage takes place in small bits and fleeting moments, all in celebration of how hard Perry works.  The film’s only dramatic moments come from her struggles with exhaustion and the rise and fall of her 14 month marriage to comedian Russell Brand.  The details of their relationship exists briefly around the sides of the movie, and there is never an insight into their relationship beyond the fact that their distance and their relentless schedules crumbled their marriage (Brand is seen but never interviewed).  The divorce makes up the movie’s dramatic climax, but we are never given any insights into that breakup, which was cited as “irreconcilable differences.”  There is a moment at the end of the film when broken-hearted Katy stands on a platform, about to go onstage, and tries to pull it together before having to perform in front of 80,000 screaming fans.

Waiting for any insights into anything in this movie is a bit frustrating.  The movie never seems to nail down a purpose.  It shows a bit of this, and a bit of that and then returns to the stage where it makes the excuse for being presented in 3D.  This is not a piece of journalism so much as it is a package to sell Perry as a product.  What does work is the footage of her stage performance.  Her stage presence is filled with fire and energy even while belting out a strange tune called “Peacock”, a song that has nothing to do with the bird. I’d love to know what her parents think of that.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2012) View IMDB Filed in: Documentary, Musical