Monday, August 20, 2012

Part of Me: Katy Perry's Self-Portrait Documentary

by Drew Martin
I did not see Katy Perry's Part of Me when it was playing a few blocks away from my house and it has all but vanished from my area. I did, however, find one matinee showing yesterday not too far away, so I drove down to the quaint town of Maplewood, New Jersey and watched it in a tiny theater with a handful of people: a mother with two pre-teens, and two teenage girls. Part of Me is actually an interesting behind-the-scenes promotional documentary that follows Perry on her world tour. It is not two hours of pop but a warts-and-all self-portrait that shows her with and without her makeup and wigs, and in her perkiest moments as well as her groggy mornings and sobbing collapses. Katy Perry and Michael Jackson are the only two musicians to have five singles from one album make the number one position on the pop charts. Jackson was a superior singer and dancer (no one did it better) but Perry is more creative, closer to her audience and puts together a better total package. Like Jackson, Perry worked hard for her rank. The difference is that Jackson was a childhood superstar and a natural. Perry had an awkward childhood but sang and played guitar in the environment of the Pentecostal church. The fact that her parents were strict Christians tends to offer a story of isolated repression but a clip in the film of her father preaching paints a different picture; one of an upbringing steeped in dramatic theatrical performance and a lot of time on the road. I like how Perry has stuck with people that she started with; her designer (pictured here) who she bumped into when she moved to Los Angeles, and a make-up artist she met behind a store's cosmetics counter. Her older sister tours with her as her voice of reason. The most amazing scene in the movie is when we see Perry as a total wreck after being dumped by Russell Brand. With a packed venue in São Paulo, Brazil, she is in no condition to perform but she pulls it together in the very last moment and puts on a show. In an interview I saw of her on Australian television, she speaks about the scene and how a switch on her costume, which makes parts of the outfit spin, is a metaphor for a switch of her emotions.