Here’s the thing about Katy Perry: I want to know what’s going on in the brain that engineers those absurd bras. And while “Katy Perry: Part of Me” shows me the bustiers and the corsets, it’s never too specific about who the girl wearing them really is.
Yes, I think we can all agree that Perry is more of a genuine, real person than fellow pop star Lady Gaga, whom I’m happy has taken her meat dress and faux-gonzo antics back into the studio or whatever, now that her second album is officially boring. Perhaps Perry is also more real than Britney Spears, who despite being my generation’s most dominant pop star is now a caricature of herself (really, $15 million to be a judge on “The X Factor”? Where can I shave my head and sign up for that gig?). But “Katy Perry: Part of Me” is not about to show you any truly authentic moments from the perky-quirky Zooey Deschanel-lookalike songstress whose main draw is her bustiness and ever-changing wig collection. Whether it’s lollipops or whipped cream on those plentiful cups, we’ve seen it all before.
Honestly, who keeps greenlighting these concert movies? In the recent past we’ve had “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” and “Glee: The 3DConcert Movie,” both of which I saw; sorry, America. Neither of those “movies” taught me anything new about Bieber (in fact, I just despised him more after those wasted 105 minutes) or Ryan Murphy’s singing slave army, but then again, I’m not a 13-year-old girl. So maybe being a decade older than the target demographic is holding me back.
That’s clearly the issue with “Katy Perry: Part of Me,” too, since it plays out like an extra-long “Behind the Music” or “E! True Hollywood Story.” Megafans who caught Perry on her sold-out 2011 world tour in support of her 2010 album “Teenage Dream,” which is where this footage comes from, already know she grew up in a very religious home, already know she spent years toiling in record label obscurity, already know that she loves her grandmother and dressing up like candy and being generous toward her fans. We. Already. Know. That. So those elements of “Part of Me” are just extra greasy gloss, too-buttery icing on a cake we’ve already tasted. The cake is stale, baby!
The only intriguing elements of “Part of Me” are the brief times Perry's now-ex Russell Brand shows up onscreen, and the emotions Perry exhibits regarding the dissolution of their marriage. She talks about scheduling “relationship days” and trying to make their union work, but we all know, at this point, that they filed for divorce in December 2011 after 14 months together. What we haven’t really seen, however, are British actor and comedian Brand’s reactions—if you’re a gossip fiend like me, you know he’s declined taking any of her money, and is being quite gracious in the media about the whole thing—and so it’s interesting to see him pop up in the documentary. Similarly provocative, for lack of a better word, are Perry’s copious tears, including a breakdown before a huge show in Brazil. As she sobs backstage right before going to entertain thousands of fans, it’s a startling look at real emotions in a documentary that, up until that point, has been very controlled its portrayal of Perry as boobs and glitter and Candyland and boobs and glitter and Candyland.
“Part of Me” can’t function on that romantic-breakup narrative alone, however, and so it feels disjointed and disconnected, cheerfully presenting Perry as this giving, wonderful person in most scenes, but also a wrecked, broken-hearted girl in the others. Perhaps that’s accurate, but directors Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz haven’t edited things together in a cohesive way. When the film ends, it’s on a faux-hopeful note, but all of Perry’s new singles ("Part of Me," "Wide Awake") have been passive-aggressive breakup tracks. The California Girl certainly isn’t feeling so sunny anymore.
Alas, the true failing of “Part of Me” is that it doesn't do more with Perry herself, not just Perry in relation to Brand. Details about how she decided on her pinup girl-next-door image would be nice, since Perry started off as an Alanis Morissette disciple and certainly wasn’t wearing firecracker bras while living with her Pentecostal minister parents. Similarly interesting would be at least any talk about her relationship with songwriters and producers Dr. Luke and Max Martin, who have worked with her on practically all her greatest hits, from "I Kissed to Girl" to "Teenage Dream" to "Last Friday Night." Where’s the love for the men who have helped make Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson into Katy Perry?
Instead, “Part of Me” portrays the singer’s success as just based on her hard work, gee whiz! I don't mean to be a jerk: It's undeniable that Perry has a phenomenal work ethic, and she is the first female artist to have five No. 1 singles from one album, the aforementioned “Teenage Dream.” But “Katy Perry: Part of Me” is a commercial, not a diary entry—and it sticks, far too often, to an already-decided-upon script.