Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Documentary, Music
Directed by Dan Cutforth & Jane Lipsitz (feature-film debut, directed TV documentary Hunger Hits Home)
Opens locally Thursday, July 5th, 2012
There is a wall around Katy Perry. In this rock-umentary, we follow the pop icon on and off the stage during her massive 2011 world tour, her first major one. At the beginning of each show during the 124 show tour, Katy is surrounded by walls as she rises up from the stage and into the sights of her screaming fans, revealing herself and her music.
Metaphorically speaking, there are even more barriers between Katy and the masses. Her shows are extravagant, showy and expensive. She is always in costume that only Madonna or Elton John would dare wear in public, with her hair changing from blue to purple to jet black, none of which match her natural color. Katy's critics point to this as artificial - more show than substance - and her sometimes over-produced tracks seem to over-shadow her supposed talents as a singer.
But is any of this the real Katy Perry? In Katy Perry: Part of Me, we get a great deal of information on Katy Perry's rise from her gospel roots to her climb up the pop charts, as she became (as the movie claims) the only artist (other than Michael Jackson) to land five #1 singles on the Billboard Pop Charts from the same album...a feat that was never done by The Beatles, Elvis or Madonna. The journey is a fascinating look at the backstage culture of a star and into the life and trials of a modern celebrity.
I would be the first one to tell you that I was shocked at how much I liked this film. Not a big fan of Katy Perry necessarily, there is no denying that she is a voice of a generation, for good or bad. Sure, it does act as a nearly 2 hour commercial for Katy Perry herself, but it was a very enjoyable story and presentation. This "overnight sensation" actually had quite a long ride to get to the top.
The film is also very now. Throughout the film we hear from her legions of fans about how Katy Perry has inspired them to be themselves and to reach for their dreams. Many of these testimonials are lifted from YouTube clips and Twitter-feeds. There are on-screen representations of how Katy's audience grew on first MySpace, then Facebook, and then to her over (as of this writing) 22 million followers on Twitter.
The film jumps between her on-stage performances and the grueling life of a pop star on the road. Although you feel like you are peeking backstage, there is sadly little revealed about the artist or the person that couldn't be found on Wikipedia.
Some of this is expected, as anybody who has watched a concert documentary can expect to see how tough it is being on a tour. This film makes sure that Katy is always shown in a good light, from inviting fans backstage, to hiring her personal stylist and make-up artist out of obscurity. It even makes sure that it stops to mention how involved Katy is in the production elements, as we see her tell a stage hand to raise something that is blocking the on-stage screen.
It is the unexpected moments that bring some worth to the film. The singer who first made it big by singing "I kissed a girl and I liked it" actually wasn't allowed to eat Lucky Stars as a kid, because her Pentecostal preacher parents viewed luck as devil-work. Katy mentions Alanis Morissette as one of her influences, not a dot that I would have at first connected.
There is even a sub-plot involving her relationship with Russell Brand. Not surprising that a celebrity marriage was short-lived, but perhaps surprising to see how it effected Katy...celebrity relationships are often laughed at, but we see how real it is when you're the one faced between realizing your professional dreams versus keeping up a marriage.
A revelation I received during this film? That Katy Perry can actually sing. Her most popular songs are also her weakest vocally - in my opinion - and there are a few moments when Katy Perry reveals herself through song that really showcase her talents. In these slower ballads, her voice - not her wacky costumes, set design or background dancers - takes center stage, and it also showcases her talent as a song-writer...another over-looked talent not at the fore-front of her made-for-radio singles.
An a side note, how this film received a PG rating is beyond baffling. One performance is shown in its entirety, a song called "Peacock", with lyrics like, "I wanna see your peacock, cock, cock...don't be a chicken, boy, stop acting like a beeotch, I'ma peace out if you don't give me the payoff, Come on, baby, let me see what you're hiding underneath." Elsewhere in the film, somebody says the "s-word" and it gets beeped out. Good job, censors!
It is undeniable that Katy Perry fans will salivate over Katy Perry: A Part of Me, and I wager that even those like me who expected something like Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, will be surprised at how much they enjoy the film. Did I unwillingly drink the Katy Perry Kool-Aid? It is a rock-pop-umentary that effectively does its job of selling Katy Perry to believers and non-believers alike.
Still, Katy Perry: A Part of Me is aptly named: We get to see a part of her, and nothing more. It would have been some absolute fireworks to have gotten a glimpse at the whole thing.
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