“No regrets, just love.” That concise statement from “Teenage Dream,” one of Katy Perry’s five number one singles from the 2010 album of the same name, sums up the nature of Katy Perry: Part of Me. Documenting her 2011 California Dreams Tour, Perry reveals some of the most intimate emotional moments of her relationship and divorce from Russell Brand, as well as her devotion and affection for a group of fans that whole-heartedly support what she dubs her “weirdness” (though her style is easily accepted in rave and Japanese culture).
Interweaving scenes from the past and present (including footage of Perry’s video diary from when she was 17 and 18 years old), Part of Me is an examination of something that seems almost a foreign concept in terms of modern fame: Struggling to achieve one’s place in the spotlight. Perry’s erratic rise to the top is told with seamless grace by directors Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz.
Perry’s beginnings as a musician were fueled by her Christian background, prompting her to release a gospel album in her teen years. The footage of her from this era is a sharp departure from her current image, to say the least. Although the common misconception about Perry is that her parents disowned her once she moved to Los Angeles, Part of Me dispels that myth by including interviews with both of her (colorfully offbeat) parents. And then there’s also the cameo by her grandmother, who is undoubtedly the best member of the family.
Once Perry, made her way to L.A. (by way of Santa Barbara, so not really a huge leap—geographically speaking), her horizons–both musical and otherwise–started to expand. Citing Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill album as the first non-Christian themed music she ever heard, Perry’s style in her early career mirrored that same sort of angsty vibe. One song in particular, called “The Box,” caught the attention of an executive at Columbia Records, courtesy of her producer, Glen Ballard (yes, the very same man responsible for producing Jagged Little Pill). Making her mark on the L.A. club scene, both as an artist and an aesthetic trailblazer, Perry’s label was trying to mold her into the most current likeness of an angry–but cute–pop star, mainly Avril Lavigne or Ashlee Simpson. Ultimately, Perry went over to Capitol Records after a former publicist at Columbia who started working at Capitol recommended her.
When Perry was finally allowed to do it her way with the album One of the Boys, the success she attained was inevitable. What Part of Me glosses over, however, is Perry’s first single, “Ur So Gay,” instead citing “I Kissed A Girl” as her initial exposure to radio listeners. While “Ur So Gay” wasn’t as popular, it gained greater fame after a Ryan Seacrest interview with Madonna in which she named it as one of her favorite songs of the moment.
Part of Me, which Perry herself stated was influenced by Madonna’s 1991 documentary, Truth or Dare, then goes on to blend the highlights of Perry’s California Dreams Tour with the backstage highs and lows of a grueling schedule that took her around the world for an entire year. How much of the film is a contrivance to make Perry appear a bit too sugary sweet (the comments about and footage of Russell Brand places him completely at fault for the demise of their relationship) and how much of it is the real thing is difficult to say. And, in this respect, that is what makes Part of Me so enthralling to watch (a statement that is clearly not reflected by the box office revenues in the U.S.).