A new hybrid of music documentary and concert film has emerged in recent years, championing promotion over probing insights. Predicated upon popular artists and packaged for their adoring fans, these features appear to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding their subjects, allowing never before seen access. In reality, the artists at their centre are among the driving forces of efforts designed to increase their following. In 2011, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never proved the epitome of the trend; in 2012, the equivalent is Katy Perry: Part of Me.
Such offerings conform to a prescribed structure, combining archival footage demonstrating a rags to riches story with carefully selected slices of present day life. Aspirational aims are apparent, with viewers sold the dream that they too can achieve celebrity status. Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz’s chronicle of the star born as Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson but better known as Katy Perry doesn’t dare depart from the obvious approach. Indeed, even the film’s tagline perpetuates the usual message, telling audiences “Be yourself and you can be anything.”
Amidst the usual aggrandising is an effective and affecting story of Perry’s rise to fame. Although regarded as an overnight success after “I Kissed a Girl” became a breakout hit, and seen since as tabloid fodder due to her marriage to controversial English comedian Russell Brand, she spent years trying to break into the music game. As the daughter of evangelist preachers, her first dalliances with singing came through the church, with her initial release a gospel album. Wanting something more, she set off for Hollywood, struggling for eight years before reaching stardom.
The reality of her difficult climb to the top of the entertainment business is never in doubt, nor is the immense ambition that thrust her towards such an outcome. Similarly, Perry’s devotion to her fans, insistence on remaining in touch with her friends and family and attempts to prolong her marriage are as admirable as her on-stage prowess. However, whilst her ordinary background, exceptional work ethic and down-to-earth qualities are profusely professed, there’s little in Katy Perry: Part of Me that’s revelatory. Even the breakdown of her relationship with Brand is given only the most cursory of treatment.
Accordingly, in an onslaught of candy coloured-costumes and catchy anthems to individuality, the film proves intriguing yet superficial. Underneath the reality TV approach exists an interesting protagonist coping with fame, yet this aspect is barely glimpsed. Instead, the feature – unnecessary use of the third dimension included – feels like mere propaganda calculated to sell more albums. Although suitably rousing and even somewhat resonant, Katy Perry: Part of Me merely presents the package expected of her sugary stage persona, in following the new music documentary formula.
Katy Perry: Part of Me was released in Australia on July 2nd.
Directors: Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz