This week, America got two helpings of fantasy in the theaters: The Amazing Spider-Man and Katy Perry: Part of Me. As of July 4, both were rated 71% on Rotten Tomatoes.
So why did a dude like me choose to see Katy Perry: Part of Me? Well, when I saw Perry last summer at Verizon Theatre, the cool-jazz version of her hit "I Kissed a Girl" made the tween spectacle of the California Dreams tour seem less corny. Jazz Katy broke through my contempt for the artist for a few moments.
With Part of Me, I was hoping for another moment that makes the enamel-eroding sweetness and commercial intent behind this tour documentary worth watching. Even if I don't like her songs, I like the idea of cross-media mythical figures that audiences relate to. It's something Katy shares with Spider-Man.
The midnight screening I attended drew a young crowd of mostly girls applauding, cheering and yelling "I love you, Katy!" A couple girls even showed up with blue wigs. Even though we were in a theater, they were acting as if this were a concert.
The film starts and ends with fan testimonials about her significance via webcams, and a younger Perry appears in similar webcam fashion to seem relatable. Part of Me features interviews with core crew and family wrapped around glitzy 3D concert and rehearsal footage of songs that illustrate the chapters and keep narrative pace.
It would have been nice if Part of Me gave more insight into the tensions Katheryn Hudson faces while inhabiting sexually-indecisive celebrity avatar Katy Perry.The most we get is the conflict between her touring and short marriage to comedian Russell Brand. Although we see Perry without makeup, and glimpse an emotional breakdown as her marriage ends, the brand is still powdered up for effect. We get a tease of authenticity in the chapter detailing Island Def Jam and Columbia trying to manage and market Perry, yet Capitol's success in the same industry charade with Teenage Dream isn't elaborated on. It's a reminder that winners get to write the history, and they like to keep themselves squeaky clean.
The "moment" that appealed to me was Katy's Alanis Morissette-like persona featured in a clip for her 2003 song "Simple," produced by Glen Ballard. Like Jazz Katy, who also appears on screen in sharper detail than my seat at Verizon, Alanis Katy brings up a sort of nostalgia and suggests what she really could do if not constrained by the industry.
Part of Me apparently marks the end of the tween stage of Perry's career. While I won't miss her mediocre tunes, or the contradiction of her being marketed as a chaste sex symbol for kids and adolescents, I still claim a debt to them for inspiring a few of my columns and a show review. Jazz Katy and Alanis Katy remind me that even I can be charmed by transparent retro archetypes for a little while.