by Donovan Laird, The Wasteland Chronicle: July 8, 2090
EXPECTATIONS: If there's one thing I love more than a zombie-free compound, it's 80-year-old pop culture artifacts. From its candy-coated veneer to the faint smell of oranges, Katy Perry: Part of Me looks to be a fascinating and detailed examination of a prosperous time in our history. The 2010s were a time in which there was so much food, women fashioned giant costumes out of it (and presumably donated it to the less fortunate shortly thereafter). Then again, that sweet smell could just be the pool of gasoline this film was lying in when I found it.
REALITY: There's no real eloquent way to say this, so I'll just say it: Katy Perry: Part of Me is, at times, a brilliant satire of America's obsession with pop stardom. Not since This is Spinal Tap has a film so thoroughly skewered a genre of popular music. The lengths that this film goes to in convincing us of the realities of Katy Perry's life are at times whimsical and harrowing, made even more persuasive thanks to the way it cleverly weaves her life story into the fabric of an outlandishly produced concert. At times, I actually believed what I was watching!
Part of Me follows pop singer Katy Perry (Zooey Deschanel, I assume, diving headfirst into the role) as she embarks on her 2011 world tour. The majority of the film is structured as a concert, showing us a handful of musical numbers in full, with musical interstitials peppered throughout the film. When we're not watching the lavish numbers unfold, we get a glimpse into Perry's Christian upbringing, as well as her marriage with comedian Russell Brand (who appears briefly, playing himself), which slowly crumbles over the course of the film.
Come on, you have to appreciate that level of artifice.
Of course, a film like this would collapse if the music weren't up to snuff. Thankfully, the numbers written for this film are as infectious as they are clever. Certain songs, such as "The One That Got Away" and the title track, are as genuine as any early 2010s pop tune I've heard. The songs that dominate the film, however, are tunes like "E.T.", "Last Friday Night" and "Firework." These songs, while equally strong, display a tone somewhat raunchier than I was expecting for a film geared toward tweens and their moms. In fact, the most subversive moment in the film features a classroom full of kids singing their own rendition of "Firework," a song I'm almost positive is about a woman talking to her man during an intimate moment in the bedroom.
I applaud the filmmakers' boldness in attempting to sneak these songs (surefire hits upon the film's release) under the noses of parents and uppity types everywhere. Part of Me even addresses these concerns directly, as the filmmakers interview Perry's parents, themselves ministers who appear to merely tolerate the success of her song "I Kissed a Girl." Stardom means more than appeasing the stifling tastes of mom and dad; stardom is a no-holds-barred effort that means realizing your vision for one and all, no matter who sees it.
When I set about building the Laird Compound, they said it couldn't be done. They said "Don't you know how zombies work? They'll see the lights from the spires for miles around and won't stop until they've beaten down your door and devoured every one of your brains!" To which I replied, "No duh. I've taken extensive notes on season two of The Walking Dead. As long as we build a perimeter, maybe dig a moat and don't let the female characters do anything important, most everyone will survive until at least season three." And then I built my fortified compound, to the accolades of survivor camps from here to New Kalamazoo. Everything turned out better than expected, and everyone gave me a standing ovation. Also, zombie attacks are down by 17%, so suck on that you zombified morons.
But back to the movie. While much of Katy Perry: Part of Me is constructed in the style of a mindless concert film, there are scenes in which the filmmakers go above and beyond the task of simply staging a concert. The opening verse or so of "I Kissed A Girl" is a sullen performance, intercut with footage of Perry's family and friends wringing their hands over how the song will go down with her Bible-thumping parents. As the song builds, so does the narrative, until finally the tempo ramps up and Perry breaks out in a much more upbeat chorus, itself intercut with scenes detailing the song's eventually massive success. It's moments like these in which Part of Me really comes alive, and unfortunately these moments are few and far between.
Strikingly earnest performances from Ms. Deschanel, Russell Brand, and Raising Hope's Shannon Woodward (who practically narrates the film as Perry's best friend) do a lot to blur the line between reality and fabrication. Even between her onstage and backstage personas, Katy Perry is the same person, but with an air of showmanship separating the two. The film's 3D element seems utterly perfunctory, only lending depth to title cards and one or two musical numbers. Though while that aspect of the film feels like a shameless cash grab on the part of the studio, Part of Me ultimately winds up an intelligently crafted, yet wholly calculated dig at the early 2010s entertainment industry. And it's pretty fun, to boot. I just wish the film hadn't copped out and credited Katy Perry as being played by "herself". We all know the truth.
|The Lingering Scent of Candy||Still Makes Me Think I'm Being Lied To...|
MINORITY REPORT: I declined to write about this film simply because I had no idea how to review a concert movie. 'Hmm, yes, at one point in time, Ms. Perry does shoot whipped cream out of her nipple. It evoked the early works of John Ford, hmm yes, quite.' - Martin R. "Vargo" Schneider
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