KATY PERRY: PART OF ME gets surprisingly deep into a pop sensation's world. The question is, are we better off for knowing it?
Katy Perry is a polarizing figure in pop music; people either love or hate her music and persona, both of which illustrate a growing trend to introduce sexual overtones and even fetishism into every aspect of daily life. Case in point: Perry's appearance on Sesame Street, in which she and Elmo engage in a duet, was never aired because her shirt was considered too revealing. Yet for Perry, such things are commonplace and even acceptable in the eyes of her fans. It's no doubt that Perry is a pop sensation, in full command of her success and enjoying every minute of it. But are audiences better off for it, when she or others continually cross the line to confuse her youngest fans about appropriateness? While Katy Perry: Part of Me doesn't address that controversy, it does go way outside of the upbeat, self-promotional side that its director initially envisioned. And that's a good thing.
Sprinkled with testimonies from family, friends, and Perry herself, we learn how the pop star was re-constructed after only a brief career as a gospel singer, then as a Alanis Morrissette-inspired grunge escapade that reeked of Avril Lavigne. Starting with the release of "I Kissed a Girl," Perry's career went supersonic, resulting in more Number 1 singles on one album than Michael Jackson or even Elvis Presley. Me documents the bumpy ride to this point as most concert-bios do, which usually portray singers in the best possible light, as throngs of fans clamor for an autograph or smile uncontrollably during a meet-and-greet. For the fans, all of that is here. Yet, there is a deeper story presented, one that not even director Dan Cutforth (Justin Bieber: Never Say Never) could have imagined would unfold during the 123-date California Dreams tour. Perry's messy divorce and the emotional toll it took on her is well-documented here, adding a layer of fragility and humanity to the star that the film so desperately needed. Otherwise, the concert footage is nothing new or even spectacular, with Cutforth choosing traditional long camera angles and quick edits for the concerts, as well as shoulder cameras and YouTube videos for fan testimonials. Twitter must be loving all the attention Me gives them, showing Tweets from Perry and her fans soon after the divorce is announced. But it's her very human reaction to the news that takes the film into unknown territory, dealing with events as they happened, including her decision to continue with a show that evening.
Katy Perry: Part of Me paints a picture of a singer whose success comes at a price. As a concert video, it's barely passable; as a life lesson for young women who struggle with their sexuality and succeeding in a male-dominated world, it stands above the din of other bio-concerts. As we watch Perry in San Paulo on the verge of a breakdown in the elevator leading her to the stage, we realize that no one is safe from life's hard lessons, that (especially in her field) the show must go on. And while her tenacity might not encourage critics of her music to switch sides, it does lend a needed bit of humanity to a pop star whose glitzy shows and overt sexuality don't tell the whole the story. Perhaps that wasn't the original intent, but it suits the film well to embrace it. Katy Perry: Part of Me is rated PG and has a runtime of 95 minutes.
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