A Star is Born: The Rock Version
By Michael S. Goldberger
Special to the Observer
A point of disclosure before reviewing directors Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz’s rock tour documentary, “Katy Perry: Part of Me.” While I’m old enough to be her father, the subject, born Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson, is my latest fantasy heartthrob. Oh, it’s OK. As always, I’ve cleared it with my wife. You see, I pick a new Dulcinea every decade or so.
And my real-life fantasy has come to be rather understanding of the syndrome, not unlike the tolerance William Powell’s film wife, Irene Hervey, demonstrated in “Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid” (1948). Back when we first met, she inherited Jill St. John, who had been preceded by Katherine Hepburn and Ava Gardner before her.
Miss Perry at long last unseats Kim Basinger. Call me fickle. To be frank, she was getting to be quite a handful. Just ask Alec. But in any case, on a mission to confirm this momentous changing of the chimera, mindful that I was the oldest teenybopper at the Bijou, I’m happy to report that Miss Perry has cleared the first hurdle of her application.
Buoyant, informative and entertaining in the usual backstage, entre nous style indigenous to concert tour movies, all that remains to be ascertained is whether or not the award winning singer is as genuine, forthcoming and ingenuous as her fluffy image would have you believe. It’s in essence what has so endeared her to a generation of youth, worldwide.
Interview snippets from fans around the globe, usually dressed in the signature, candy-colored/kaleidoscopic costumes popularized by their idol, explain it is her individualism, her mantra advising that it’s OK to be yourself, that’s so enamored them of her. Me? I first heard it from Steinbeck, and later, John, Paul, George and Ringo filled in the rest.
While blessed with strong, well trained pipes, she is not a really great voice…but rather, a unique emoter of her times, a Pied Piper who, in one skull session with her stage and costume people perplexedly asks, “How could something possibly be ‘too cartoony’?” She is a whirlwind, the latest trendsetter, now challenged by the biggest gig of her life.
It’s the 52-week, 2011 international tour, a test of stamina, talent and conviction, with a glop of soap opera tossed in courtesy of her recent marriage to actor-comedian Russell Brand. In case your subscription to the “National Enquirer” has run out, that’s now kaput. At any rate, it serves to remind that each age group has its version of “A Star is Born.”
Zooming from city to city, Miss Perry invites our eavesdrop, interspersing the frenetic pace with videos recorded since her childhood. Raised in Santa Barbara, the daughter of Pentecostal ministers, she talks of an initial foray in religious music. Explaining it took her several years to become an overnight sensation, we sense her showbiz savvy.
Flirting between her iconic image of candidness and a slightly tongue-in-cheek assertion of what it takes to make the big time, she innocently giggles about the inherent appeal of a good girl gone bad. Supported by members of her staff who tell how they were pulled into the fold from obscurity, the professed idea is that she is fiercely loyal and beneficent.
Naturally, she’d also like us to believe success has not jaded her and gives the distinct impression that, alas, like the princess Audrey Hepburn portrayed in “Roman Holiday” (1953), she may be long deterred from true love allowed to prosper. And you know what? We kind of believe it, maybe because it’s partly true, but mostly because we like the idea.
But most convincing is the difficulty of upholding the mantle of celebrity…the impossible pace of pleasing one’s adoring public night after night, and the personal havoc it causes. In one instance, her marriage in question, she goes fetal on a couch whilst her handlers begin to whisper of the devastation. Childlike, she yells,” I can hear you!”
Then, like a scene we imagine Bette Davis playing, Katy pulls herself together, beckons makeup, and is in no time fully energized by the wild cheers of a thronging audience, the metronomic beat common to many of her songs drowning out all doubts. Whew…that was close. Doth greatness hang over failure by so thin a thread? We contemplate stardom.
Nothing groundbreaking, it’s nonetheless fun as Katy shows us how she has refashioned the path to an American dream that goes as far back as the Calvinists, who would applaud the goal, if not the method. Abashing and enchanting, she confides, “I kissed a girl and I liked it.” Which leaves me to admit, I’ve seen “Katy Perry: Part of Me” and I liked it.
“Katy Perry: Part of Me,” rated PG, is a Paramount Pictures release directed by Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz, starring Katy Perry, her friends and associates. Running time: 93 minutes