Directed by Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz
In 2011, pop singer Katy Perry embarked on a worldwide tour supporting her “Teenage Dream” album that was in the process of selling 10 million copies globally. During that time, she fell in love and got married to comedian Russell Brand, only to see that relationship fall apart due to the time they spent apart.
I will admittedly confess that I’ve never been a fan of Katy Perry’s incessantly catchy pop music. Maybe it’s because I know I’ll never again be able to watch the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks without hearing her song “Firework” or maybe part of me feels she represents everything that’s wrong not only with popular music but also our world today when the best we can do for a role model for young girls is a singing sex doll. (Though I guess Lady Gaga will have to get that honor because at least Perry dresses like a human being.)
Either way, it’s with that cynical mentality I went into the highly-touted 3D concert doc “Katy Perry: Part of Me,” prepared to be bombarded with all those songs I hated and have my feelings confirmed that there’s nothing beyond Perry’s shallow and superficial surface. Boy, was I wrong.
While it starts out as a behind-the-scenes movie about Perry’s year-long 2011 arena tour in support of her platinum-selling “Teenage Dream” album, it soon reveals itself as something a little more than just marketing to try to sell more albums and a movie to confirm how great Perry really is. It certainly doesn’t help that it spends the first half hour with testimonials from her manager and friends about how great she is, but in doing so, it successfully debunks some of the myths and misconceptions people may have of this modern bubble gum pop singer.
The first myth debunked is that Perry was an overnight sensation because her very first single, “I Kissed a Girl,” was an instant hit. In fact, it took her five years and three labels before Capitol Records saw the talent she had as a singer and songwriter and allowed her to do her own thing. The fact that she’s kept most of the same people around her, including her older sister, who tours with her, and the same close friends from before her fame is a testament to her staying true to herself through the fame and success.
Even before she hit, Perry had an interesting background, being the daughter of deeply-religious evangelical Christians who prevented her from experiencing things most normal kids do, and it was only when she moved to Los Angeles to pursue her singing career, switching from gospel to more mainstream songwriting after hearing Alanis Morissette, that she broke out of her shell and that’s when people started to take notice. The fact that Perry writes all her own songs is quite impressive in this day and age when songwriting teams are employed to make cookie cutter hits for artists.
The film’s use of 3D photography is effective at putting the viewer right onto the colorful and ornately-decorated stage with Perry, and it’s a solidly entertaining show, impressive for how quickly they seemingly put it together. We never really get too many full performances of songs from the tour since they’re often cut together with archival footage, home movies and the interviews. The actual interview time with Perry is fairly minimal, instead having her manager and those around her giving testimonials about how down to earth she is, inserting a few canned soundbytes from Perry among them, making the movie feel more canned “talking heads” than some might expect.
As the tour proceeds, we see her album getting bigger and bigger and we truly get what staging such a large and extensive tour can do to a person as Perry is dragged around the world, always putting on a big smile for her adoring fans. Her growing success is bittersweet because over nine months into the tour and her marriage to Russell Brand is falling apart before he files for divorce. Even though you know it’s coming, it still drastically changes the tone of the film while also giving it far more depth than it had up to that point. Perry is surprisingly open about the break-up with Brand when asked by the interviewer, offering one of the film’s most poignant and honest moments.
As more and more actors try to maintain a wall between their fans as they try to keep their personal lives private, Perry allows herself to be exposed as she is going through one of the most emotionally turbulent and vulnerable moments of her life. Presumably, Perry herself had some say over the final cut of the movie and what was seen and allowing her fans to see her at her lowest point goes miles to really creating a bond with the viewer.
When it comes time to perform, she valiantly puts on a big smile mere seconds before popping up from her hydraulic lift as she’s done every single night, and that’s the signs of a true role model, one that I certainly will never question again. This last half hour is what makes the movie something far more than a modern take on “Madonna: Truth or Dare” as well.
The Bottom Line:
More than just pop eye candy or an advertising for Katy Perry’s latest record, “Part of Me” is a solid doc on par with ones we’ve seen about more serious topics, giving you a far more intimate and in-depth portrait of Perry than anyone may expect. Perry’s fans will love it and those who doubt her place in modern music will gain a newfound respect for her work.