Let me blow your mind. Katy Perry has had five singles from the same album (Teenage Dream) top the Billboard charts at No. 1. She is not only the first female to do so, but also the second musical act to accomplish such a feat. The other, of course, being The Beatles.
I’m sure there are hundreds of theories about how this could have happened independently of Katy Perry’s actual talent. Pop music is a precarious genre due largely to its ability to be both completely polarizing, both loved and hated in equal parts. Whether or not one finds Katy Perry to be an exceptionally talented musician or a mass-marketed industry explosion is not the point. The point of Katy Perry: Part of Me is that Katy Perry is a real, emotional roller coaster of a human being with family, friends, a career and a marriage. She isn’t just an industry fabricated pop star. She’s your best friend Katy Cat, and she just wants to you to have fun and be the best you can be.
Between Perry’s spectacle of whipped cream guns and glitter, Part of Me is basic “behind the music” stock. There is nothing especially dramatic or lascivious in her past or her present. Even her strict Christian family and upbringing has been reconciled and integrated seamlessly into the fabric of her life as a woman who made good with a song about casual sexuality. Her relationship with and eventual divorce from actor/comedian Russell Brand is handled with a surprising subtlety, showing a slow decline throughout the movie until a tearful dressing room scene with a broken-down and petulant Perry who has to force herself to perform. This tactic — portraying her as an utterly normal person who gets sad and angry and exhausted, yet gets up and goes to work just like the rest of us — works well and is convincing enough to get most viewers to empathize.
With a following nearly as large, but far less avid than, say, the nation’s collective boyfriend Justin Bieber, documenting Perry’s grueling 2011 world tour is a natural progression in her professional career. Filmed in 3-D, Perry’s live performances are garish — a babe in Candyland’s most flamboyant of West Coast nightclubs — brightly colored and simultaneously childish, playful and weirdly sexy. With accents of bubblegum clouds and an arsenal of whimsically tragic costumes, the film gives the viewer plenty of engaging eye candy. The show is fascinating and extremely fun even if the entire aesthetic is a somewhat like someone vomited cotton candy and cherry cola all over a rave. Perry is magnetic and charismatic on stage and off, making each massive stage show feel personal, even intimate. She is undeniably a powerhouse performer, and this is what truly carries the film. Perry’s vision, dedication, fierce work ethic and devotion to her fans is nothing if not reciprocal. Her Katy-Cat-loving fans believe that Perry is just like them — a girl with big dreams and big passions. The beauty of it is that Katy Perry’s message is not that she is just like you, but that you are just like her and the whole lot of us all are big, goofy people with big, goofy dreams and we can do whatever we like with some hard work and some sequins. Rated PG for some suggestive content, language, thematic elements and brief smoking.
reviewed by Laura Marie Souther