“Katy Perry: Part of Me”
Directed by Dan Cutforth & Jane Lipsitz

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The pop confection known as Katy Perry brings to mind images of candy-coated costumes and a bright, over-the-top personality, but the 3-D biopic “Katy Perry: Part of Me” demonstrates that there is much more beneath the sparkling surface.

The film gives audiences a backstage pass to Perry’s concert as well as her personal life. It affirms what fans would expect to see in any one of Katy’s music videos, while also giving an intimate look into her family life, heartbreaking divorce and the price of having a successful career.

Her fans, who are often referred to as “KatyCats,” are integrated into the film through personal video messages, Twitter posts and live footage from her world tour. Perry’s connection to her fans is undeniable as thousands of devoted fans of all ages turned out in droves to sing along to her songs and imitate the “California Girls” look that Perry made so iconic.

The element of 3-D effects gives fans the rare experience of watching her concert from the first row. It feels as if you are truly there, in the best seat in the house. It also enhances the feeling of being in Perry’s shoes as we are shown the most important people in her life, her stellar accomplishments and her crushing personal moments. The diary-like feel proves that everyone, including celebrities, go through difficult moments. Similar to Justin Bieber’s “Never Say Never,” another documentary about a pop star’s life, the film jumps back and forth between biographical information and concert footage.

The film documents the trials and tribulations of Perry, who started out singing gospel music. At the age of 17 she moved to Los Angeles to pursue her career in other genres and began to experience everything outside of her sheltered upbringing. After being dropped from several music labels and failing to launch for many difficult years, she finally signed with Capitol Records and released the immediate hit “I Kissed a Girl.” The rest was a whirlwind.

Nothing is off-limits as Perry lets fans see what goes on behind closed doors and witness her “fairytale” romance crumble. Perry’s former husband, Russell Brand, is the elephant in the room. Perry’s busy tour schedule and his film shoot left them at opposite ends of the world and struggling to make things work. Perry’s friends and family recounted how she gave all of herself as she flew to see him on weekends off. We know from the tabloids that the marriage ended but what the tabloids didn’t show was how deeply Perry was affected by the breakup.

One criticism evident throughout the movie is that her chart-topping success is somewhat overshadowed by her personal tragedy. Tissues are a must as many tear-jerking moments of Perry at her most vulnerable are shown. Arguably the most emotional scene is of a ragged Perry, laying down and sobbing about Brand, forced with the decision to cancel a show or carry on. She refuses to let down her fans and so she puts on a smile and gets on the stage. Perry also confesses in an on-camera interview that it was a fairytale to believe it was possible to have both a relationship and a career.

Other aspects of the film include all of the work that goes on behind the scenes and all of the people that help put it together including her assistant, manager, stylist and makeup artist. Despite what people may think, Perry’s family and Pentecostal parents are very supportive of her work. Her sister travels with her on tour and even got up on the stage as “Kathy Beth Terry” or Perry’s alter ego in the video for “Last Friday Night.” Comical moments include Perry’s grandmother, whose dry sense of humor provides a lighthearted, familial feel.

Songs from Perry’s “Teenage Dream” album are used throughout the movie in relation to the events in her life that correspond with them. As a songwriter, Perry writes from experience and all of her lyrics are influenced by real events. “Firework” is the final performance and it serves to tie together all of the emotion of the film and end on a high note. Footage of school children with raw talent singing along to the lyrics, “You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine” are shown along with Perry as she overcomes her obstacles and lights up on the stage like a firework.

Overall, the film is inspirational and gives the message to follow your dreams and never give up. “Be yourself and you can be anything” is the directive. Whether you’re hot or cold for Katy’s music, it’s impossible not to have a good time at this movie.

Email Simpson at msimpson@media.ucla.edu.