If you think you'll see a bubbly singer in colorful candy costumes singing playful pop songs with double entendres in the documentary film Katy Perry: Part of Me, you'd be right on. But in addition to being a fun concert film, the film carries an entire secondary and very unexpected sub-plot: the demise of Perry's marriage to comedian Russell Brand.
The film chronicles the biggest year in Perry's professional career as she embarks on her first-ever world tour. It also traces Perry's rise to fame, introducing viewers to her family and friends, as well showing plenty of archival footage of a young Katy singing, playing guitar and talking in to a video camera of her desire to have an impact on the world.
We see the mini-rises in her career as she takes two steps forward, one step back, hits plateaus and experiences failures. Record companies sign her, pair her up with ill-fated collaborators and drop her. It is only when Perry decides to be herself and take control that things truly take off.
Ultimately it's an inspirational tale of if-Katie-can-do-it-so-can-I and, for her young fans, that's not a bad message to reinforce. It is also eye-opening to see just how much in control Perry has been of her own destiny and of the massive success of a career that has included such milestones as having 5 number one hit singles off of one album, something only singer Michael Jackson has accomplished with Bad.
Perry put in $2 million of her own money into the documentary when she first had the idea for it, shooting her concert at the Los Angles-based Staples Center before other financiers and producers came on board. The singer felt something big was happening in her career and wanted to chronicle it on camera. What she didn't expect was that her marriage would go downhill at the exact time her career was heading skyward -- with cameras capturing the fall.
Though Brand and Perry have managed to keep their break-up quiet and without public drama, the film paints a portrait of a new bride who is head over heels in love, going above and beyond the constraints of a grueling work schedule to keep the relationship going -- to the point where she's pushing herself to exhaustion. And though any marriage must be a two-way street to thrive, according to the documentary, it appears that in this case one person was putting in more effort than the other.
One must, however, take in to account that Perry is a producer on the film and this is her version of events. And in this version, what the audiences sees is Brand appearing early on in the film, looking a bit self conscious and out-of-place in Perry's world. She, on the other hand, adores his presence and talks openly about her love for him and wanting to have kids.
But soon Russell disappears entirely and Perry is seen crying and taking off her wedding ring while her team -- including her sister who works with her -- stand helpless. Things get worse when she's nowhere near ready to attend a particular pre-show meet and greet, due to the emotional strains. When her sister suggests canceling it so Perry can get another extra 15 minutes of sleep before hitting the stage, the singer is adamant about not letting her problems affect her work. Next thing we know, Perry enters the room in full bubbly Katy Perry mode, decked out in her sparkling glory, apologizing to her fans for being late. It's both heartbreaking and admirable.
For little girls who idolize Perry, it may be disconcerting to see their infallible idol hurting, but Perry was insistent on showing the good and the bad to humanize herself more to her fans. In the end, it's a positive effect that leaves her fans feeling even closer to her, however planned and calculated it was.
With over 300 hours of footage that was edited down to a 117-minute film, one has to wonder what was left on the cutting room floor for running time reasons, or for image reasons. Hardcore Perry fans will notice other aspects of Perry's trajectory, like her first label single "Ur So Gay" are never even addressed. Perhaps in that case, Perry -- who says hearing Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill album was massive influence on her musical career -- took a literal cue from the title of Morissette's other album, Under Rug Swept.
Still, the film manages to layer so many aspects of Perry's world -- the concert at hand, the crumbling marriage, the family history and the struggle before the fame -- in a way that never overwhelms.
For those who thought of Perry as just another a manufactured pop star, the documentary pulls away at the curtain to show that there is no wizard at the controls -- Perry is completely in charge of her own Oz.
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