The new documentary “Katy Perry: Part of Me” is being described as a “warts and all” look at a tumultuous year in the life of the pop star. That may be a bit of a stretch. This is only as gritty as an authorized look at one of the world’s biggest stars can be. “Titicut Follies” is warts and all, and “Part of Me” is no “Titicut Follies.” The documentary is more an explosion of cotton candy.
Professionally 2011 was a breakout year for Katy Perry. Her album “Teenage Dream” was a huge hit, spawning five #1’s hits, making her the first female in history and only the second artist (after Michael Jackson) to control the charts in that way. Her elaborately staged worldwide tour was a smash success and her marriage to comedian Russell Brand was front-page news.
The movie carefully chronicles her rise from Pentecostal Christian gospel singer—even Lucky Charms were banned in her family’s house because “luck was of Lucifer”— to struggling Alanis Morissette wannabe to colorful pop star. “How can you be too cartoony,” she says.
Archival footage reveals a cute little girl hamming it up in the church choir and an ambitious eighteen-year-old determined not to be the “next Avril Lavigne” but the first Katy Perry.
Intercut with lively performances from the tour—six costumes changes in one song!—are visits with her slightly grumpy grandmother and interviews with her staff and friends who generally say the kind of things you expect them to. It’s only when the tour nears its end and Perry’s marriage is in tatters that the movie reveals something other than a carefully manicured picture of the star.
Hours before a performing in front of a sold out crowd in Sao Paulo, Brazil Perry is inconsolable. Divorce papers have been filed and there is some talk that she might not be in a state to go onstage. Instead of cancelling the show, however, she turns the frown upside down, pastes on her high wattage smile and goes on. It is a true transparent moment in a movie that offers little more than a fan friendly portrait.
In that moment, coupled with her teary reaction to hearing thousands of people chanting, “We love you Katy” in Portuguese, she becomes more than a glossy confection. While there is no “Give the anarchist a cigarette,” (google it) moment here, just a series of vignettes featuring an attractive, talented young woman who seems really nice and also happens to be a big star, there are glimmers of what “Part of Me” could have been.
My guess is if you’re not already a Katycat you may end up liking Katy Perry the person, more than her movie.