Katy Perry’s buoyantly marzipan goody-goody persona makes for an often confounding mismatch with all those lyrics about kissing girls, doing too many shots and showing her your peacock. Perry presents herself as a curiously asexual sex object, sorta like Strawberry Shortcake in hot-pants with sparkly pinwheels on her boobs. Katy Perry: Part of Me tries to be an authorized, carefully scrubbed infomercial, charting the pop star’s meteoric ascent (which turns out to have been five years in the making) via bland reality-show interview segments and 3-D performance clips from Perry’s spectacularly gaudy Candy Land-themed 2011 tour.
Yet there’s a similar disconnect at work in this “documentary,” during which directors Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz struggle valiantly to stay on-message while real-life problems keep simmering in the margins.
Of course we get the rags-to-riches story of plucky young Katy, that fiercely talented daughter of a couple of hardcore Pentecostals who wouldn’t even let their little girl watch The Wizard of Oz because of all that pesky witchcraft. She eventually escapes to L.A. and struggles with renowned star-maker collaborators like Glen Ballard and The Matrix, before finally breaking through “just by being herself,” according to the movie.
But lurking on the sidelines like impending doom is Russell Brand, the tiresome British comic who parlayed his 15 minutes of U.S. fame into 20 by becoming Perry’s short-term husband. It’s sadly fascinating to trace the slowly dawning despair in this perky, naïve starlet’s eyes as she exhausts herself chasing down Brand all over the world inbetween tour dates, putting on her best brave face for meet-and-greets with young fans.
There’s only so much formula the filmmakers can shellac over their subject’s increasingly obvious heartbreak, and a couple of stray, shockingly revealing close-ups of Perry in Part of Me’s final stretch feel far too honest and revealing for such a gimcrack setting.
2014 Films: The Year’s Most Likely