‘Part of Me’ shows Perry’s rise, charm
I’m not sure what I was expecting from “Katy Perry: Part of Me,” but I know it wasn’t this: a pleasant surprise.
Part of Me’
Directors: Dan Cutforth, Jane Lipsitz.
Cast: Katy Perry, Shannon Woodward, Lucas Kerr.
Rating: PG-13 for some suggestive content, language, thematic elements and brief smoking.
The documentary, directed by Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz, follows the massively popular pop star on her 2011 tour and uses old footage, some of it home movies, to chronicle her rise to stardom. In some respects it’s one big Katy Perry commercial. But she is so engaging and accessible and just so decent that it’s hard not to get caught up in the fuss. Her breakup with husband Russell Brand and her reaction to it is included here, certainly something she didn’t have to agree to include.
It doesn’t make her music any better, but it will give you a different perspective while you’re listening to it. And yes, you can just feel the last remaining bit of street cred seeping from your body as you acknowledge this — I saw the Clash live! — but who cares? Of course it’s not an unbiased perspective, but above all “Katy Perry: Part of Me” makes its star out to be someone deserving of the fame and fortune that’s come her way.
The film begins with Perry’s massive California Dreams tour, which would go on for nearly a year. It’s an impressive production, as we see the now-standard time-lapse montage of the crew building the stage at whatever arena she and the band are playing that night. Of course, with Perry, her look is as important as her music, so there are costume folks, makeup artists and more in tow.
What’s impressive here is that most of them were with Perry before she got famous. Her loyalty to the people she’s known for a long time is a recurring theme in the film and one of her more-attractive qualities.
We see old footage of her father, a Pentecostal minister, preaching, and learn from Perry and her sister that their upbringing was strictly religious — her sister never heard of Michael Jackson until she was 14 — and somewhat stifling. Perry began writing and signing Christian songs and made an album. But she also heard an Alanis Morissette album and realized that this was more in line with what she wanted to do. She left home for Los Angeles when she was 17.
The typical music-business struggles followed, though in Perry’s case it seems more cruel than most, with labels signing her and trying to shape her into the latest pop-tart sensation. Perry writes songs, so she resisted, getting dropped and resigned. We get a good sense of how hard she worked before anyone knew who she was.
Her first big hit was “I Kissed a Girl,” and one of the movie’s highlights is watching the filmmakers discuss the song with her parents. (Perry’s father, by the way, seems by the looks of it to have changed his affiliation to the Church of the Aging Hipsters.) Her mother doesn’t much approve of the song, but she clearly is proud of her daughter and her success.
We see Brand from time to time backstage, and throughout the grueling tour, whenever she has a few days off Perry flies to wherever he is to be with him. The disintegration of their relationship appears to happen somewhat suddenly, though her manager says it was a shock to everyone, that Perry hid it. This is when we see Perry at her most vulnerable, barely able to go onstage at one point before rallying to the occasion. Again, in a film like this, we see what the artist wants us to see (or will allow us to), but she shows a lot of resilience.
None of this — including the elaborate 3-D concert footage — is going to make you like such songs as “California Gurls,” “Teenage Dream” and “Firework” any more or any less. Perry is an unapologetic pop star, and her music reflects that — it’s not for everyone. “Katy Perry: Part of Me” probably isn’t, either. But it presents Perry as a likable, hard-working artist, someone you root for, even if she’s not on your iPod.
Reach Goodykoontz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Facebook: facebook.com/GoodyOnFilm. Twitter: twitter.com/goodyk.
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