By: Addison Wylie
These recent concert documentaries have done a terrific job at peeling away layers of a hot musical artist and presenting them to audiences in a vulnerable way. Katy Perry: Part of Me may just be the most naked one yet.
That’s not to say Perry DOES get naked. That would obliterate any chance of getting a PG rating and creating an accessible product for her young fans.
Perry does however keep up her image. In the film, we see Perry strut around on stage in elaborate whimsical and risque getups. We see large gingerbread men that have been created for a specific song. Lighting effects and lasers fill the amphitheatre as Perry shoots white foam from a peppermint candy coloured hose! But, who made and thought up all of this?
The film explains to us that Perry does a lot of the motioning to her crew and has a vivid picture of how she wants everything timed and what she wants it all to look like. She couldn’t do all of this without a great crew – that so happens to be made up of dedicated friends and family.
Directors Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz want everyone to have some time in the cinematic spotlight in order to claim their deserved recognition. Some of these interviews are with Perry’s designer Johnny Wujek and her sister Angela Hudson, who spends a lot of time helping the artist and even occasionally taking the stage as Kathy Beth Terry during a performance of Perry’s hit Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.).
It’s important we see these key players at work behind-the-scenes. By seeing Perry interact with her crew and seeing these hard working individuals want to please their friend, there’s much more of a connection with every element in Perry’s show.
This crew also fills us in on Perry’s past. The ups-and-downs are notes we’d expect in a struggling musician’s life but even so, it’s hard to predict what happened on Katy’s road to stardom.
Cutforth and Lipsitz take us back to the very beginning all the way up to present day where Katy is performing a year long tour, her largest tour to date thus far.
Fans of Perry will either be engrossed with her initiative as an aspiring musician as we watch her record songs with different labels and then leap frog to another company due to failed business or confusion on the company’s part about what to do with such a seemingly impressionable artist.
Or, for fans who were hoping for a straightforward concert film, be either pleasantly surprised by the amount of detail or disappointed in the lack of stage time. I think the fidgety eight-year-old who was beside me tugging on her Daddy’s arm belonged in the latter category. I don’t think she really cared about Perry’s straight laced Christian family and her strict lifestyle growing up. I think she would’ve rather just danced to California Gurls.
It’s not exactly a dig at the film saying younger fans may be bored with the results because parents and other older fans will certainly pull a lot out of Part of Me, but it certainly isn’t going to be an approach that’ll please all age groups.
I think whether you are young or old, everyone will appreciate how the film confronts the inevitable.
There’s a foreboding beat the film starts off on. As Perry collects all of her dancers and crew members together for a pre-show huddle, she exclaims, “Where’s Russell? Russell! Come here.” cueing the now-ex husband Russell Brand to walk into frame.
The documentary showcases just how inseparable Brand and Perry were during most of their relationship. Whenever Perry wasn’t performing, she would figure out a way to fly out and see Brand to then return back to her regularly scheduled program a couple days later.
So, when the film does hit the point where the relationship hits a dry spell and the two start having complications, it’s like slowly watching a compelling train derailment.
However, we’re never laughing at Perry because we see things that she doesn’t. The film actually becomes very emotional during these moments as we see Perry approach the stage and stopping to break down every few steps.
Does she do the show or take the much deserved rest and recuperation away from the theatrics? Her decision and the end results of her choice, weirdly enough, gave me goosebumps.
The speculator within me does want to pull the editing team aside and ask them if any Brand footage was additionally added once the break-up was made public. Not to say that Brand wasn’t a huge influence on Perry when she was performing but there are plenty of scenes before the downfall that play up how much she was head over heels for her beau. You can’t help but feel this sub-plot gained a few pounds in post-production.
When I wasn’t captivated by her road to stardom or being emotionally tugged, I found myself smitten with Perry and with her movie. I was surprised with how impressed I was with the finished product and with her dedication and accomplishments as an artist.
It was a similar feeling I had with 2011’s Justin Bieber pic, Never Say Never. Then again, these two directors served as producers on that film.
I would say that Part of Me runs more briskly than Never Say Never though. Where the songs in Never Say Never felt as if they were there to please those young fans, the songs in Part of Me serve as a form of narration. In order to tie Perry’s story in with her music and emphasize more of the influence her life experiences have on her music. Cutforth and Lipsitz have strategically placed, with help from the editors, each song at an appropriate moment in the film. A lot of these choices work.
The musical choices that don’t work as well aren’t bad but rather a little funny. The film begins with numerous fans telling their videocameras how much the lyrics have deep meaning and how these emotions in the songs have helped them through tough times. We then cut to Katy Perry singing one of her fluffier songs Hot N’ Cold. Again, not a bad choice. Just peculiar.
However, I don’t want to undercut the feelings fans have towards Perry. They’ve obviously found meaning and insightfulness in her poppy and genuine verses and I’m not one to reject that notion. I mean, I’m a guy who found tons of enjoyment and fascination in her concert film! If those fans can have her songs, I will happily take her movie with open, cotton candy coated arms.