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Movie Review: Katy Perry: Part of Me

July 5, 2012

Since I’m the mom of seven and nine-year old girls, I have been subjected to more Katy Perry music than anyone deserves over an entire lifetime. I tolerate her because my girls have only recently discovered pop music, and they love her. Several months ago I promised them (begrudgingly) that I would take them to see Katy Perry: Part of Me when it came out. Well, today was D-day, and I shelled out the extra bucks so we could see it in 3-D.  You have could knocked me over with a Day-Glo lollipop when I discovered it is actually a wildly catchy concert film, and an inspiring documentary.

The film toggles back and forth between concert and documentary footage, while fan videos bookend the beginning and end. What’s immediately touching during the opening montage is just how much she has influenced so many of her fans with her kooky sense of individuality. Geeks, outcasts, gays and insecure fans draw inspiration from Katy’s unspoken but well understood motto of “be yourself, it’s okay to not conform.” An entire subset of tweens, teens and young adults have embraced “Firework” as their anthem of self-empowerment. That’s a really amazing accomplishment for the singer/songwriter.

Part of Me chronicles Katy’s professional and personal life during a massive world tour in 2011. I’m no expert on concert films, but the footage here is really a visual feast.  Perry’s set is astoundingly colorful and whimsical-like a cross between the world of Dr. Seuss and the Candyland board game come to life. Her costumes are crazy creative. Unlike a lot of singers, Perry sounds really good in concert. No need for her to lip-synch; she actually has a hell of a voice on stage. She’s also a tremendous performer-what she lacks in dance skills she more than makes up for when she acts out the songs with infectious enthusiasm. I suspect that watching this film might be better than going to one of her concerts, because here you have a front-row seat for all the eye-popping visuals. I’m not usually a fan of 3-D, but the concert footage lends itself well to the technique.

Perry also has a fairly interesting life story. Pentecostal Christian ministers who were uber strict with the kids’ upbringing raised her. Katy’s brother recounts that their parents wouldn’t let them eat Lucky Charms because luck is associated with Lucifer. The hell? That’s downright barbaric. Perry began singing and playing the guitar in the church, and eventually recorded a Christian music album. It wasn’t until she finally discovered Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” that Katy emancipated herself from the Christian music scene and moved to Los Angeles. Although most people consider her an overnight success, it actually took almost ten years for Perry to break through. She could have done so earlier, but chose not to sell out to Columbia, who wanted to micro-manage her image and career. Eventually she landed with Capital, who allowed her more autonomy, and the rest is history. Perry is the only female ever to have five number hits on one album, and she hasn’t even turned thirty yet. And yes, based on footage from her teen years, they’re real, and they’re spectacular.

What is most surprising about the movie is how intimate it is-Perry chose to include the footage during the time when she and husband Russell Brand were going through their breakup. She could have easily edited the footage showing her so vulnerable and heartbroken, but Perry allows more than a peak into her personal sadness. Watching her sobbing mere seconds before having to take the stage in Brazil caused me to burst into tears, because I don’t wish that type of emotional pain on anyone. I can’t imagine having to perform in front of thousands going through that gut-churning grief, but Perry literally puts on a happy face for her adoring fans, smiling through the tears. The show must go on, after all.  Say what you will about Perry’s music but is impossible to emerge from this documentary without a newfound respect for her.

Rating 4/5


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