Do Fame and Fairytale Go Hand in Hand?
Written by Matt Giles
Edited by Erin Accomando
Many of us don't understand what it's like to be a musician. Whether they're famous or not, the life of a musician is anything but easy. They're on the road constantly, working late nights, rehearsing all day and spend far less time than they want to with the ones they love. This concept is part of what makes Katy Perry: Part of Me, the new documentary about the singer/songwriter's 2011 world tour, so intriguing.
Perry's album, Teenage Dream, propelled her to international fame and made Perry the first artist since Michael Jackson to have five No. 1 singles on an album. The film begins in January 2011 when her year-long international tour is about to begin. We see her excitement, her enthusiasm and nervousness about embarking on such an adventure, and watching her, we're anxious to see what events will unfold by the tour's end.
One major event that made me completely invested in Perry's strength as a performer was her relationship with actor/comedian Russell Brand. He appears briefly in the film, but it's well known that these two separated in December of 2011 and divorced shortly thereafter. While this may seem more like gossip, it's not. Instead it adds suspense and dread to the story, which is something I was not expecting going into the film.
Over the course of the first few months we see the effort that Perry is putting into her relationship. Despite being in Europe, she flies to Los Angeles or New York (or wherever Brand happens to be) in order to spend time with him, leaving her exhausted and frustrated. She's committed to her marriage, but in one scene argues with her manager that there are no days in the coming weeks for her to fit in time with her husband. Her manager, clearly annoyed, tells us that Perry is killing herself by making all these trips and thinks that Brand should fly to Europe some of the time, but he won't and Perry knows that.
I mention her relationship to Brand because it emphasizes the juxtaposition the film is ultimately about: this singer, who's style, songs and attire all evoke a fairytale belief system, has anything but a fairytale life. This is a film that shows us the personal tole that superstardom can take on an individual and that, as much as someone like Perry may want the ideal life, sometime's it's just not possible.
In one truly heartbreaking scene, something has happened (we're never told the specifics and it's tasteful that we're not) between Perry and Brand. She's devastated, does not want to move and cannot stop crying. She forces herself into getting ready and not canceling the show she's about to do in Brazil. She walks beneath the stage, steps on the platform that will bring her up to the stage (echoing the opening scene of the film) and breaks down crying again. It seems as though they'll have to pull the plug and then, being the dedicated artist she appears to be, she composes herself, smiles and does the show.
Yes, this is a film about Katy Perry - by Katy Perry - so she'll obviously be portrayed in the best way possible. It's subjective and manipulative, but then again, so are all stories. Perry has a unique presence that captivates us, making us feel her pain and emotionally invest in her journey. She's a character in a film and a real person at the same time. She's brave for allowing her fans and all other interested parties see what a year of her life looks like.
The film's weaknesses are few and far between. I would have preferred more objectivity, maybe showed interviews with people who have had bad experiences with Perry, if there are any, and there could have been less fan montages showing the impact of her songs. I know what they're trying to do, but it makes the film feel too biased in Perry's favor.
These weaknesses don't take away from the enjoyment Katy Perry: Part of Me provides. This is a documentary that provides insight into the price of fame, and Perry is just the right character to keep us engaged throughout.