What’s wrong with Katy Perry’s Part of Me popumentary?
Louise Bruton is a freelance pop-culture writer from Dublin. Her work has appeared in The Irish Times, The Dubliner and Hot Press. She blogs at notverywise.blogspot.com. Read her previous work here at spooool.com/author/louisebruton.
Katy Perry’s cinematic release of Part Of Me (★★) - in 3D for added swirling, candy bra action – is described as an “intimate look at the fun, glamourous, heartbreaking, inspiring, crazy, magical, passionate, and honest mad diary of Katy”. You get these things but at absolute face value. There is no evaluation of what a hectic year it was for the Perry machine, with 124 live shows across the world and a high-profile divorce from that lovable vagabond, Russell Brand. We learn no more than we would from one of E!’s True Hollywood Stories.
Perry did minimal press following the high-profile end of her marriage of 14 months so this was her time to have her say. In one moving scene, filmed minutes before she’s due onstage at a sold-out show in Sao Paulo, Brazil, we see Perry hunched over, crying. The show goes on regardless, with her manager, Bradford Cobb, and assistant, Tamra Natisin, describing it as depression. That is one of the isolated scenes that shows the real Perry. Artists often claim that they want fans to know the ‘real me’ and popumentaries are a great way to do that but Part Of Me was mostly surface water.
Maybe Perry is working up to a follow-up called “Another Part Of Me” but two great documentaries that she should have taken a leaf from for her own candy-filled caper are Madonna’s Truth Or Dare (★★★★½) and Britney Spears’ For The Record (★★★½). Madonna, the Queen of Pop, and Spears, the Princess of Pop, show unflattering sides to their public persona and it helped them achieve that goal of presenting the ‘real’ them.
Truth Or Dare chronicles Madge’s 1990 Blonde Ambition Tour and, in it, she admirably makes no apologies for being a wagon. From pretending to retch after meeting Kevin Costner, who described her raunchy show as ‘neat’, to flirting with Antonio Banderas infront of his then wife, Ana Leza, Madonna does what she likes, when she likes. Aside from insinuating masturbation onstage and flouncing around with sexy dancers dressed as priests, her most shocking moment is when she responds to the news that her make-up artist, Sharon Gault, was drugged and sodomised by… laughing. Despite that, there is an unmistakable tight bond between her and her crew. They love each other like a family and fight like a family but when Madonna laughs about Sharon’s hazy night, you can’t help but gasp and say ‘Madonna – you gas bitch’.
Unfortunately, the funny moments in Spears’ MTV-created documentary are seriously outweighed by the sad. 2008′s For The Record was filmed before the release of her 2008 album, “Circus”, and after Spears’ notorious mental breakdown that followed the success of her aptly-named 2007 album, “Blackout”. For 60 days, a camera crew followed her around. We observe the close watch her father and then sole-conservator (he now shares legal power over her with her fianceé, Jason Trawick), Jamie Spears, keeps on her and the fear that takes over her when the paparazzi follow her around. Her teary-eyed reflection of her career, divorce and how much she loves her two sons is emotional and reveals a girl who is very lost in a world where everyone knows her name. Truth Or Dare and For The Record provide two of the world’s biggest stars a soapbox to clear up preconceptions about them.
A more recent popumentary is Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never (★★★★), which was released in 2011. It follows the build-up to the then 16-year-old’s biggest concert to date – a sold-out show in New York’s Madison Square Garden. Like Part Of Me, Never Say Never documents the level of success Bieber has achieved and it feels as if it’s proving the ‘haters’ (‘haturz’ in some dialects) wrong. What could have been 115 minutes of “oh, isn’t he amazing”, Never Say Never is thought-provoking as well as entertaining. Halfway through his movie, which was available in 3D in the cinemas so you could see the giants tears his fans shed at the mere mention of his name, you wonder what effect the pressure of being a teen superstar could bring.
When knocking back a cocktail of green vegetables and vitamins, The Biebz screws up his face and says “I’m 16. I always have energy”. His co-manager, Usher, who rarely offers stale advice chimes in with “You won’t always be 16″. Exactly. Right now, Bieber is in his element. Lapping up the attention, living out the dream that the celebrities speak so fondly of. But in ten years time, will we be watching him in a documentary that echoes the sadness in For The Record? For a Belieber, looking at that dreamboat on the big screen is enough but for everyone else, you’re siding with someone to make it out the other side intact.
Part Of Me has had great success so far, grossing close to $25 million worldwide in box office sales. Search #katycats on Twitter to see just how loved she is by her fanbase but her movie, although available in 3D, is one-dimensional. It is a pumped-up PR party that eludes to something bigger that is never explained. We see a part of Perry and it is a lot of fun, but it is the part that we already know about. Her live show is worthy of screen time but if any other popstar is going to make a documentary, hopefully they will bring some insight to the table that isn’t already on Wikipedia.