I must admit, before seeing Katy Perry: Part of Me, the pop princess with the candy-coated cleavage was on the periphery of my pop culture intake. Sure, I'd see some of her goofy and glittery music videos online, read about her Sesame Street scandal and cheeky response on Saturday Night Live, was aware of her short-lived marriage to crass comedian Russell Brand and had certainly sung along to her most popular singles at karaoke. Yet I hadn't formulated an opinion on Katy Perry and her particular brand of pop confection. That was the main reason I wanted to see her concert doc, to take a look at Perry and her work head on. And now, I can be counted as unabashedly a Katy Kat. Giddy, girly and engaging, Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D is a thoroughly jubilant and inspiring cinematic experience sure to delight her legions of fans as well as win her countless new ones.
Directed by the founders of Magical Elves, Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz who have crafted compelling narratives from reality before with Project Runway, Top Chef and Air Guitar Nation, Part of Me unveils Perry's path to stardom--as well as the career highs and personal lows she experienced during her California Dreams Tour--by interweaving behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with her friends and family, and home movies with kinetic and exhilarating 3D performances from her spectacle-driven stage show. Pumping up the music and showcasing Perry's over-the-top costumes, Part of Me fires up audiences from its first scene, then uses pop music—most often hers, but sometimes covers—to envelop us in her emotions, be it the exhilaration of success, the dizzying swoon of infatuation, or the crushing blow of a breakup, making for a wonderfully moving narrative.
The daughter of a born-again Pentecostal preacher, Perry was barred from most pop culture until her teen years, when she discovered Alanis Morissette, whose raw and edgy music urged her to give up the gospel songs of her youth and write something more true to herself. From there, Perry pursued her girlhood dreams of glittery stardom with an undying ambition and remarkable self-certainty. But beyond this backstory, Part of Me gives audiences a look at all the work that goes behind her flashy stage show. Costume fittings with her trusted stylist Johnny Wukej, workout sessions where Perry works off the fast food that is her favorite indulgence, and tech rehearsals where she pushes to make every effect absolutely perfect. Far from the colorful and impeccable presentation she shows on red carpets and talk shows, Perry is shown without make-up, and in her darker moments, without defenses as she shatters into tears.
While Perry's tour was taking her all over the world to perform 124 sold-out, 2-hour long arena shows, she and Brand were trying to make their new marriage work. But despite Perry's fairy tale dreams of happily ever after, and her tireless efforts to fly to her husband's side at every opportunity, he filed for divorce by year's end. As it's her movie, take a grain of salt with the point of view on this, but it does seem Perry gave her all--much as she does in her stage shows--and when it is not enough to save her marriage, we see her quivering and crying on a makeup chair, removing her wedding band before crumbling into despair. On the whole, she's diplomatic about Brand, never slinging mud or blaming him directly, but it's at this breaking point—with her manager and assistant pressing her to get into costume, despite her personal crisis—that we see Perry for who see is above all else: a true and dedicated performer. Broken and heartsick, she gives her team the go sign, and her makeup artist swabs away her tears to begin preparations for the show. The moment where Perry physically pulls herself up from a slumped stance of a heartbroken girl into the joyous carriage of pop idol who has it all, including a dazzling smile, is one of the movie's most awe-inspiring moments. She is the light she wants to see in the world and inspires us to be the same.
Whether you're hot or cold on Perry's music—I couldn't help myself—it's impossible not to be pulled in by her inspiring tale of self-discovery and tenacity. Stepped through her early brushes with record labels, we're told how she refused to be "the next Kelly Clarkson," or "the next Ashlee Simpson," insisting all the while she wanted to be the first Katy Perry. She fought for her vision at every turn, and still does, powering through her own pain and exhaustion to deliver to her fans a remarkable jubilation. I genuinely struggle to remember the last time I felt so consistently joyful in a theater. From the kinetic choreography to the cheeky costume changes, wild stage props and Perry's uniquely extraordinary showmanship, Part of Me is a so much more than portrait of a pop star, it's a party.
Reviewed By: Kristy Puchko