In many ways, Katy Perry's "Part of Me" follows the typical 3-D concert movie formula: colorful on-stage spectacle meets off-stage shenanigans with a little bit of emotional backstory.
HuffPost Entertainment Editor Kia Makarechi and Associate Editor Crystal Bell found some time to chat about the film's highs and lows, from the glitz and glam to the downright tragic.
Bell: Before I talk about Katy's cotton candy cleavage, let me preface by noting I've seen the following 3-D concert films: "Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert," "Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience," "Glee: The 3-D Concert Movie" and "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never." I suppose this makes me some kind of an expert when it comes to fluffy concert movies, so I hope you don't think I'm kidding when I tell you that "Katy Perry: Part of Me" might be my favorite thus far. To be honest, I thought nothing could top Bieber, but the KatyCats are just naturally more endearing than the Beliebers.
Some of the most heartfelt moments in "Katy Perry: Part of Me" occur when the glossy popstar says nothing at all and for a second, breaks out of character. Katy wears her facial expressions as well as she sports her fantastical costumes. However, that doesn't mean the movie is perfect. At times, the film feels diluted by the same gloss that has seemingly propelled Katy's career. "Part of Me" sets out to expose the real singer underneath the cotton candy hair and whip cream bra, but it spends so much time on her handlers, that it only gets half the story. For some reason, the film completely skips over her early days as a successful indie artist, her relationship with Travie McCoy of Gym Class Heroes and her first major label single, "Ur So Gay."
Makarechi: I should say I haven't seen any of those 3-D concert movies, but I have seen other concert films like, the brilliant LCD Soundsystem documentary "Shut Up and Play the Hit" and "Don't Think," about The Chemical Brothers. I enjoyed those more, but comparing them doesn't really work (James Murphy of LCD is probably doing the exact opposite of what Katy Perry is doing). But "Part of Me" is exactly what one would expect. Fun, informative and ultimately inspirational. But one thing that a movie like this can't be is controversial, which is why I suspect "Ur So Gay" didn't make the cut. I was also disappointed to see McCoy cut out of Perry's life, but it may have been difficult to watch Perry go through a breakup and a divorce (especially given its treatment of the divorce, but more on that later).
Bell: Katy's childhood is briefly touched upon in the film. Raised as a Pentecostal Christian, Katy wasn't allowed to listen to music that wasn't Christian, wasn't allowed to watch "The Smurfs," couldn't read "Harry Potter" and could only watch "Sister Act 2." Katy's parents, who were travelling ministers, were thrilled when she signed to a Christian label at 15 and released a gospel album. However, Katy's squeaky-clean image didn't stick. After a few years in Los Angeles, Katy released "I Kissed a Girl." Needless to say, Katy's mother wasn't pleased, but despite numerous tabloid reports, Katy makes it clear in the film that everything is fine between her and her parents. She also explains that although she doesn't believe in everything her parents do, she does believe in God. After several of her on-stage performances, you can see Katy mouthing the words, "Thank you, God."
Makarechi: Perry's early-L.A. life seemed interesting because it seemed so unremarkable -- she was a clubrat contemporary of Ke$ha, getting snapped in late night photos by Mark Hunter. Known as The Cobrasnake, Hunter is a once-employee of Shepard Fairey and eventual nightlife documentarian who tagged around with Steve Aoki and other would-be hipsters. That world must have seemed unbelievable to her, and "Ur So Gay" is exactly the type of song one would expect to come out of it. It was a boozy but relatively calm scene, but it wasn't the place for gospel.
Bell: Going into "Part of Me," I wasn't sure how much of Katy and Russell's marriage would be touched upon. Halfway through the film, I was shocked by Katy's candidness. One poignant -- and exploitative -- moment shows Katy crying in her makeup chair and removing her wedding ring. It's obvious that this scene came after the demise of her marriage to Russell. At the last minute, Perry pulls herself together, while fighting tears, as she is cast up on stage and performs a tearful rendition of "The One That Got Away." However, it's important to note that this take on Katy and Russell breakup is completely one-sided, as Katy was one of the producers of the film. Russell only appears on-screen a handful of times, whereas Katy is depicted as a tireless devotee using her free days to jet off to wherever her husband is.
Toward the end of the film, Perry tells the camera that she thought she had found someone who could deal with her hectic schedule and not be intimidated by her success. Of course, this could be taken as a subtle dig at Russell, but you get the sense that Russell didn't know that he was signing up for either.
Makarechi: To me, the treatment of the divorce was the best and worst part of the movie. It was interesting and saddening to see her sobbing immediately before going on stage (and vaguely reminded me of Michael Jackson, for some reason), but the discussion of her and Brand's relationship was too heavy-handed and one-sided to be taken seriously. That's unfortunate, because it was the only serious moment in the film. (Her issues with her parents' religion, for example, are joked away with comments about "I Kissed a Girl.") By painting her as such a martyr (how many times did we need to be told that she would fly to visit him?) and victim, with no attempt to provide Brand's perspective, the movie lost credibility. The bottom line, however, is that this is an interesting and some-what ambitious film that's worth seeing if you don't hate her music.
Here are 8 things we learned about Katy in "Part of Me":
- At her lowest point in Los Angeles, she asked her younger brother, who was 15 at the time, for money.
- Katy and her Hollywood BFFs -- actress Shannon Woodward and it-girl DJ Mia Moretti -- made a "One day, we're all going to be famous" pact when they were young and broke in Los Angeles. Now, they are all (semi) famous!
- When Katy signed to Columbia Records, the label made her work with the then-hotshot producing duo The Matrix. They tried to turn her into "the next Avril Lavigne." Perry wasn't having it.
- The first non-Christian album she ever heard was Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill." Katy said that she was particularly inspired by "You Oughta Know."
- When Katy first met her manager, she did a cartwheel and landed in splits in his office.
- Katy's former Columbia publicist stole her files from the label and brought them to Capitol Records.
- When Katy was 5, someone approached her at a church event and told her that she was going to be a singer.
- Most of Katy's staff have been with her from the beginning.
"Katy Perry: Part of Me" hits theaters on July 5.
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