As a front-row seat to a concert, Katy Perry: Part of Me is bland entertainment, except if you already number among her Katycat fans. Personally, I prefer Adele. But teens who adore Perry should be satisfied with the colourful on-stage stuff.
As a backstage pass, however, Part of Me is more engaging and interesting, regardless of your feelings about her music. That is because it shows the very human side of a pop culture idol -- warts, farts, tears, laughter and all.
Instead of being the bratty and entitled star I expected, the bubblegum superstar is convincingly portrayed as a charismatic and warm-hearted individual who has not yet (and may never) let superstardom destroy her good character. Her fan meet-and-greets are extraordinary. There is a minimum of the usual hype or hysteria. While she is still 'gurly' and a little naive -- like her teen-type songs, from I Kissed a Girl to Not Like the Movies -- the 27-year-old Perry is also seen growing up.
Not always willingly. Co-directors Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz captures some startlingly intimate moments in Perry's life during the time they filmed this doc (in gratuitous 3D). Among those moments is personal business that obviously pushed her maturation. We follow Perry's marital troubles and ultimate divorce from troubled British comic Russell Brand. Perry faces this with refreshing honesty and openness, letting the filmmakers record the dissolution of the marriage during the 2011 California Dreams tour that the doc chronicles. You get the distinct impression Perry desperately tried to save her relationship, out of love, while Brand spun out (he is barely seen or heard from in the doc, so his side is untold).
Meanwhile, one sequence filmed on Sept. 25, 2011, at a concert in Sao Paulo, Brazil, is profoundly moving. You see what happens when a pop star's public and private lives intersect like a train wreck. Obviously getting bad news from Brand, Perry falls into a depression, reduced to a crying jag on her couch. The way she sucks it up is inspirational, going on-stage to perform The One that Got Away while near tears, with the audience chanting, "Katy We Love You!" in Portuguese.
The Brand affair follows Part of Me like a storm cloud. Otherwise, the doc is as laser-beam bright as you would expect from a performer who celebrates "my weirdness" and who encourages fans to express themselves as unique individuals. Reinforced with video footage that goes back to early childhood and includes her teen years as a gospel singer, this conventionally structured film plods through what Perry had to go through to achieve that for herself.
Not just because she came from a household of extreme Christian fundamentalists who suffocated their three children's cultural education. Not just because her first years in the music business in Los Angeles involved frustration, rejection and manipulation. All that and more. The doc lets you see how an individual evolves, in this case with the alchemy that finally produced a pop star.