I Know I’m Easily Emotionally Swayed, But Katy Perry: Part of Me Made Me Love Her
Anyone that knows me know my heartstrings are vulnerable. Filmmakers, novelists, actors, journalists, even sitcom writers, have all at one time or another used me as a helpless instrument and played whatever melody their hearts desired. So yes, maybe you should take all of this with a grain of salt. But. Katy Perry: Part of Me exceeded my expectations by a long shot, and I walked out of the theater with a much greater appreciation than I ever thought possible for the woman who famously kissed a girl.
There were legitimate concerns with making a Justin Bieber-esque documentary about Katy Perry. In fact, it almost didn't get made. Understandably. Beliebers are a highly-feared army of girls who have the power to start a worldwide trend in approximately 30 seconds and are known to send death threats to anyone who even accidentally insults their beloved, pay hundreds for a water bottle he sipped, compare Bieber-haters to Hitler, and (seemingly more than anything else) cry. The Beliebers may be a more emotional bunch than even me. (I momentarily teared up at the end of Madagascar 3. From happiness. There is nothing I could tell you about my life that is more embarrassing than that.)
But the Katy Cats? Frankly, I didn't even know of their existence before the film. (No offense, guys.) Looking to Twitter, the Biebs boasts 24.5 million followers to Katy's 22.6 million (not as large a discrepancy as I thought actually), and Katy's flick is expected to gross around $11-15 million this weekend as opposed to Never Say Never‘s $29.4 million — not to mention Hannah Montana: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour‘s $31.1 million.
But you know what, I still think the film works. And it works not only because of Katy's inspirational story and incomparable showmanship, but because of the emotional subplot: An honest look at the collapse of Katy's marriage.
The film documents the arduous journey of Katy's 2011 world tour, an overwhelmingly epic 124-venue sellout whirlwind. At the beginning of the journey when she first had the idea for the movie, Katy put $2 million of her own money into the project, clearly knowing something big was afoot for her that needed to be documented. Painted as sitting in the driver's seat of her career every step of the way, even Katy herself probably couldn't have predicted that whirlwind would result in both a record — she became the first woman in history to have five No. 1 singles off a single album — and the tragic dissolution of her marriage.
Professionally, I gained a great deal of respect for Katy and the long road she took to where she is today; from traveling around the country with Pentecostal preachers as parents to moving to California on her own and bopping around several record labels before finally releasing a single. It's easy to look at the song that made her famous, “I Kissed A Girl,” and see little but shock value and selling out. But the girl has been writing songs since age nine, also the age she taught herself to play guitar. There was a stretch when she was trying to make it when she wrote literally hundreds of songs. She has written songs for the likes of Kelly Clarkson (“I Won't Hook Up” and others). So yes, “I Kissed A Girl” errs on the side of the attention-grabbing, but that's who Katy is. Her own grandma calls her a showoff. You say sell-out, I say the girl knows how to get our attention.
My favorite part of the film was a clip of Katy singing and playing guitar on stage in Hotel California in 2006, two years before “I Kissed A Girl” made it big. She sang “Thinking of You” — my favorite Katy Perry song, but to her, just one of the hundreds of songs she had written in the past couple of years. Little did she know how many people would eventually hear it. Actually, maybe she was the only one who did know.
(Photo: Lia Toby/WENN.com)
But what holds the film together and really draws you in is watching a story you've seen a million times. At the beginning of the movie, Katy and Russell Brand are just two young and busy people who fell in love. They met at work, she thought he was cute, he asked her out, everything fell into place. Katy gushes about Russell, offering that maybe she is naïve, but she really thinks she found her soulmate. As the tour progresses, you see a long distance relationship fraying at the seams as it tries to stretch across continents. You see an exhausted, lovesick Katy taking the few days she has to relax to fly to the other side of the world to be with him.
Yes, the boy is a former sex and drug addicted comedian, and yes, the girl is a world famous pop star. But the emotions of the story are the same. They're relatable. They're real. And they are what propels the film forward.
The culmination of all this comes at the largest show of the tour, over 20,000 people in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. That same girl that we see goofing around throughout the film is lying in her dressing room beside herself, plagued with exhaustion and more importantly, the impending loss of that soulmate. But somehow, Katy pulls herself together, gets dressed, falls apart again just before going onstage, and goes out and performs. Sure, Katy is a producer on the film, and sure they are going to try to make her look as good as possible. But the raw emotion in that moment is too real, too overwhelming, to call Katy getting on that stage and performing anything less than heroic.
So yes Hollywood, you did it again. You took advantage of me, did a waltz with my emotions, and made me more of a Katy Perry fan than I thought possible. But you know what, after breaking away from her upbringing while still maintaining a close relationship with her family, writing more songs than we'll ever have the opportunity to hear, churning out hit after hit, canceling exactly one show in a nonstop yearlong world tour while going through a divorce, and kicking ass onstage night after night, the woman deserves our respect. And will probably earn your love in the process.