Imaginative. Creative. Fun. Inspirational. These are the four words I would use to describe the recent biopic and concert series, Katy Perry: Part of Me. The multi-platnium selling artist shows the world why she’s at the top of music industry with radio smashing hits and a concert tour that hits every major city in the world. At age 27, Katy has a lot going for her and it shows. Warning: If you weren’t a fan of Ms. Perry before, you may be a new follower after seeing this film. And if not, you’ll at least have a new found appreciation for her. The documentary shows the pop singer at her highest and lowest; when you think she can’t go any further, the singer gets up, puts a smile on, and goes to work.
From the title, one would assume the film covered Katy’s “California Dreams” concert tour, and while that’s partially true, Katy Perry: Part of Me is much more than just the latest promotional effort. Audiences worldwide get an inside look at the singer’s home life, tour life, and personal life — 3 aspects that, without balance, could possible ruin her career. The documentary follows her path to success, being dropped by several record labels, and still coming back, despite her divorce to UK comedian Russell Brand. Her inspiration? The fans, the music, and her family.
A Fluid & Cohesive Story
Many documentaries fall flat due to a muddied plot line. By the end, the story loses steam, lost in its own script and poorly edited footage, but not Part of Me; the story follows its beacon of light from start to finish. The documentary starts out with the fans, a group of hopefuls all different ages, each one voicing why they look up to the pop singer. The choice to open the film with her fans lends pathos to the film, displaying a sense of selflessness and appreciation.
We’re not introduced to Katy Perry in the crib or recording her first single “I Kissed A Girl” as many would assume. The film goes above and beyond to avoid the cliche story telling, and instead starts at the place where Katy feels most at home. The stage. It’s a smart move on the editors’ part. From the get go we’re reeled into Katy’s dynamic presence and energy. It’s difficult not to pay attention to the lavish singer. Despite Johnny Wujek’s playful costumes, the Candy Land inspired set design, and the 8-10 dancers, she is front and center. This is her life. This is her story.
Like a snapshot of the present, the film starts with Katy’s life today and then rewinds to the beginning — a natural, thick-haired girl, age 7 or 8, toothily smiling at the camera. Even at that age, you could tell she would reach stardom. We’re then taken to a home video of her at age 18, thinking about her future. Her doubts and dreams put into question. The video intercedes several parts of the film, reminding audiences that even a hit musician such as Katy Perry had to get her start somewhere.
The family is Katy’s support system; they are her best friends and confidants. Early on in the documentary, Katy takes us to her grandmother’s house. She’s a feisty, tough-loving, grandmother, who doesn’t hold anything back. If something’s on her mind, she’s going to say it. Seeing Katie’s hair dyed lavender seems nothing new to her as she and her granddaughter look through a photo album.
We’re then introduced to Katy’s parents, God-fearing people, who never abandoned Katy in her dreams to become a singer. She mentions that though people think she’s the classic good girl gone bad, that’s not how the picture’s painted. In fact it’s the opposite. Sure, releasing “I Kissed a Girl” as her first single may have made her mother cringe, but she’ll stand by her daughter’s side, no matter what.
And then there’s her older sister and tour manager, Angela Hudson, whom from the beginning promised Katy that she’d be there for her. Many years later and the promise is still intact to this very day. She’s as much of the concert as Katy is, giving onstage passes to devoted fans, making sure Katy is on schedule and healthy, and even looking after her during points of depression. Her family is the pulse that beats, the central vein from beginning to end.
The Music – The Thread Holding Everything Together
Going into this film I had expectations of listing to nothing but Katy’s hits, but boy was I wrong. Even the songs played repeatedly on the radio had the feeling that I was listening to them for the very first time. She adds a lot of variety and color to her voice, which gives each song an all new life; it’s an aspect not carried over the airwaves.
The songs are tied into the story, not just thrown in. The movie presents Katy’s life like a musical in the making. For example, part of the film examines Katy’s stagnant career at Columbia Records. The label didn’t use her talents in the right way, and had a hard time fitting her in a niche. The pop star in the making felt tied down as Columbia continually told her she should be more like Jessica Simpson, Avril, or Kelly Clarkson. Restriction. The scene then cuts to Katy Perry on stage performing “Who Am I Living For”. Four male dancers in red and white skintight pants latch illumined chords onto her and together the five enter a beautifully choreographed piece of tugging and pulling. Katy’s moves are hindered as she tries to break free from their strain. It’s an impressive metaphor that comes across quite effectively.
Katy didn’t just back her film with her hit songs; she shows that there’s room for other musicians. The Vapors’ “Turning Japanese” and Amanda Blank’s “Make It Take It” both receive a spot in the film. Not to mention, Katy did an impressive cover of the Beatles’ hit song “Hey, Jude”, showing her range as singer. Pop is just one facet of her many talents.
Cinematograpy and Editing
The cinematography and editing was brilliant to say the least. There are sweeping shots of the tour that capture every element of the concert — pulsing lights, the colorful stage, the whole shebang. We get inside Katy’s mind, and nothing’s out of bounds. The film’s use of tweets we’re pretty impressive as well. They pop up here and there at the bottom of the screen, but there’s one establishing shot which shows the NYC skyline and Tweets fade in randomly from different building in support of Katy during her and Russell’s split. The camera never loses Katy for a second. We’re there with her, as she ascends on stage from the pit, as she belts notes with energy and finesse. It’s an impressive feat that leaves one wondering, just how does she do it all?
Is it Worth Seeing In 3-D?
Ihad plans to see the film in 2-D, but upon my arrival was dismayed to learn that I’d have to pay the extra 4 bucks to see it 3-D, since there wasn’t an option to see it any other way. Go home or go big, right? Nevertheless, I bit the bullet, grabbed the red and white Katy Perry inspired glasses and went in the theater. If you’re a huge fan of Katy Perry, the 3-D will be a cool effect. But for me seeing Katy’s blue hair up close wasn’t necessary. I will say, that there were a couple of pretty cool scenes and shots that worked in 3-D, especially during the concert tour.
The Director’s Fingerprints Present
Unfortunately, the film still has directors’ Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz’s fingerprints all over it. One can tell that they tried to sculpt a story out of Katy’s life. In the documentary genre, the slightest hint of manipulation from the director can send the film spiraling. The scene with Katy’s grandmother was a bit staged. And the way they handled Katy’s split from Russell Brand was bland and unoriginal to say the least. Seeing more footage of the two together, may have solved this problem. I just didn’t care about Brand enough to feel for Katy. Thankfully, there’s enough here to keep everything afloat.
Overall Score: 4 Stars Out of 5
I went into the theater, like others, expecting something that was mediocre at best; however, I came out with a better understanding of the woman behind the music. In true fashion this film is inspirational. If you’re interested in the music business or documentaries, see this film. If you’re a pop-culture enthusiast, see this film. If you’re one of those go-against-the-grain types, who slashes anything remotely popular… see this film. I promise, it’ll give you different perspective on the pop industry. Hats off to Katy Perry, her team, and family for delivering a unique and refreshing documentary.
‘Katy Perry: Part of Me’ Trailer