Purple Rain (1984 Warner Bros. Dir. Albert Magnoli)
Hmmmm. You taste like oil-based makeup. I shouldn’t have licked you really.
Let’s face it, you’re not like me. I was going to start this review with one of those “If you’re like me…” statements, but you aren’t like me. You don’t have a huge wall of DVDs, you don’t point a finger blindly at the wall and you don’t then decide to watch a movie because of where your finger was pointing. If I was less honest than my mother raised me to be, we could be reviewing Wheels on Meals, which is right next to Purple Rain on my shelf. I organize my DVDs by chronology. Not chronological by production, chorological by the time that the movie takes place during. This means all the movies that take place during the 1700s are together. Don’t judge me. I fail to see how using some arbitrary Greek ordering of letters is in any way better. Seriously, screw the Greeks and their so-called alphabet. I decide what movie to watch by the time its set in. I can’t find movies in alphabetical order. This doesn’t even matter since Wheels on Meals and Purple Rain both came out in ’84 so it’s really pointless you taking me to task for putting all my samurai movies in one place. Besides, half way through writing this review I did a poll to decide which movie should be next and this won anyway.
That’s the smile of a man who knows all he has to worry about when he looks back in 20 years is how his hair looked.
Now, that last paragraph was self-centered and carried a pointless deviation to no good purpose. You might wonder for a moment what any of this has to do with a review of Purple Rain, unless you’ve seen the movie, and then you already know. There was something peculiar about movies made in the 1980s, something I haven’t seen much before or since that time. There were movies that were made with music videos inserted into them. There were music movies before this, and there were music movies after, but the ones from the 80s were peculiar in that everyone seemed to do them. Instead of just musicians, everyone put music videos into their movies, and they didn’t always stop the movie for a song anymore. This was the decade of the montage, and of course, ready-made videos for MTV were a must. That being said, there’s very little actually new here. It’s the same sort of movie that had been made dozens of times before and would be made dozens of times again. The only reason this feels special is that it’s the first time that I’d seen this sort of story played out. Also, I’m a Prince fan, so I have to like this one better.
There has got to be something funny I can say about this facial expression. Think, damnit, think!
So we begin at the beginning, then we’ll go on until we reach the end, at which point we’ll stop. The movie starts with a musical number, because there are musical numbers in this movie and almost any moment chosen at random will be a performance of some collection of Prince’s music. All the music is the movie is Price, even is someone else is performing it. The first thing you hear though, is an announcer asking you to please welcome The Revolution, which was Prince’s band at the time. I love the announcer in this movie, he sounds like he’s on sedation every time he asks you to please welcome one of the bands. Every time his voice is heard, you can hear his soul dying within his body. He hates his life, he hates his job, he hates these bands, but he has to ask you to welcome them. Bonus points for the fact that he’s already wearing eyeliner. He’s so damn emo, he was emo before emo was emo. EMO!
I hate myself and all of you.
The open song is “Let’s Go Crazy” which you should all know because it’s one of those songs that gets played constantly, all the time. The song makes for a decent opening sequence and more or less sets up where the three main characters are. Yes, there are there are three main characters. Prince plays a character called The Kid, Patricia Kotero plays a character named Apollonia (which she then took that as her stage name) and Morris Day plays… Morris Day. Actually, it’s Day who is leading the pack here, since everyone else failed to think of a character name and just followed Morris in using their own name. Strangely though, Day is probably the one who is acting the most. Morris is supposed to be the villain, but in many ways, he behaves professionally like Prince did during that time. I’ll get into that later.
Oh for the days when a Trans-Am on the street was an acceptable thing.
A great part of the movie takes place at the First Avenue nightclub in Minneapolis. Maybe no the plot so much, but the bulk of the film happens there as that’s the main musical venue for the flick. This is during Prince’s New Romantic period, which I’ve always felt was one of his cooler looks. If you don’t want to look at the pictures provided, you can sort of picture it as late 17th /early 18th century punk rockers. This is where a solid ¾ of the movie takes place, since probably about ½ the movie’s runtime is taken up by the dozen or so songs. Many of those songs being played in their entirety.
When a man in a tracksuit and a man with a suit are walking together, mischief can be the only result!
The problem with their being so much music is that the movie is actually sort of interesting. The plot of the movie concern’s The Kid trying not to follow the path that his abusive father took. This would involve trying not to scuttle his career, not screwing up with his girl and not having his band break up due to him being an unlikable douche-bag. Did I mention he plays The Kid as a pretty unlikable douche-bag? That’s a pretty brave step really, making yourself to be anything but perfect in your own star-making role. Strangely, Prince actually can act in this. He’s not the greatest actor there ever has been, but he’s at least credible as himself. That’s more than I can say about some pop stars turned movie stars, like Vanilla Ice for one example.
Look at me. I’m like, the smuggest smugger that’s ever smugged his smug in an international smugging competition.
There’s a side plot about Morris and his partner Jerome forming a girl group. Jerome of course was played by Jerome Benton, so it must have taken them all day to come up with the character name for that one. The thing is, this is one of those places where Morris is actually playing Prince. It was Prince who formed the girl group Vanity 6, and it would have been Vanity in this movie had she not got tired of Prince and left before the movie started. Actually, he formed all the bands in this movie and wrote all or most the music for those bands. The Time was a side project of his, as was Vanity 6 which became Apollonia 6 for the movie. There was also Madhouse, The Family and Mazarati. There was a hell of a lot of music coming out of the guy during the 80s, and he made the bands play it the way he told them to. I only go on this diversion to show that the character of Morris Day in this movie is like the dark half of Prince while The Kid is the relative light half. Anyway, back to the movie and don’t ask why I seem to be so interested in distracting us from it.
See the look on Morris’s face? Told you pimpin’ weren’t easy.
So where were we in this spiraling epic of character and story? Had the midget dropped the ring in the volcano yet? No? Okay, had I got as far as foreplay? Never mind. Where, were we? The Kid’s band is getting a little antsy from not having any influence in the music. Wendy and Lisa get to step up and be the antagonizing factors in that situation. They can actually act too, which is nice since they need to have lines and everything. The romance between Apollonia and The Kid isn’t terribly credible, mostly because there isn’t a lot of time spent on it. They hang out, He gets her to jump naked into a lake, they decide they’re into each other, they screw, and that’s a relationship in 1984. The newly formed relationship is put under immediate strain by Morris wanting to hire Apollonia for his new group. The Kid doesn’t see it as simple business though and turns it into a personal struggle between himself and Morris for Apollonia’s hand, there by once again turning a woman into a object to be won or lost from an adversary. Way to go Hollywood! You keep reaching for that rainbow.
Lisa’s quite forward thinking. It would be another 20 years before Japanese RPG’s started dressing their characters like her.
Apollonia decides to join up with Morris, and The Kid reacts to this news with the delightful method used by his father in most cases: domestic violence. Upon learning the news, his first instinct is to slap her one across the chops. He then tells her that Morris is no good for her and all that jazz. She takes off, the boss of the club explains that if The Kid can’t pull it together he’s gone and “When Doves Cry” starts playing, giving us the only true musical montages of the movie. This leads into one of the most interesting scenes in the movie where The Kid and his father actually have a moment together. They almost bond over music and talk of women. This leads into some more performances first from The Kid and then from Apollonia and their respective groups. Apollonia, despite not being very good, clearly makes enough of a splash that the club owner tells The Kid he’s out on his ass if he doesn’t pull it together for one last epic show. The Kid then continues to act like a douche to Apollonia, who dumps him like last week’s taco salad.
You know, she really does look like she’s one deep breath away from popping out of that thing.
It is at this point that the movie drifts into ponderous territory. After the big bust up with his girl, The Kid comes home to find that a huge fight has happened between his parents and before he can confront his father about it, said father shoots himself. Paramedics rush in, he’s taken away and eventually The Kid is left alone with his thoughts. They aren’t nice thoughts either, as he clearly sees himself in his father’s near demise. He throws a bit of a tantrum and stops only when he finds himself throwing sheet music through the air. This would be the music that his father claimed not to have written, but clearly did. The Kid, instead of killing himself, decides to listen to the music that his band gave him. He then starts pounding the tune out on the family piano, because that’s just how he rolls.
And his cannabis based paranoia just kicked in.
The last bit of plot before the big number is in the dressing room backstage. The Time wanders off after their set, fairly pleased with themselves, but Morris seems less celebratory. He gets into it as the band encourages him to tease, and he stops by the door of their dressing room to ask “How’s the family?” before howling with laughter and passing by with the rest of the band. The one thing that redeems him as a human being is a moment right after that, where he lets the band get ahead of him and he simply slumps against the wall. It’s pretty clear there that Morris hates himself at that moment. That’s one of those moments where Morris sort of realizes that maybe being part of the catty crowd isn’t as cool as it could be.
Someone just goosed Morris here.
But hey, that doesn’t matter because music will save us all right? All the world needs is a ballad and maybe a couple of rock songs after to release the tension, yeah? Yeah! The Kid plays “Purple Rain” and everyone gets the song and his job is safe and he’ll be a star and Apollonia comes back to him and his father gets better and… and… just… everything. I mean, it works, it’s got some emotional weight, but you can’t really relate that in a written review without sounding like you think the stars are God’s own daisy chain. The problem is that we know it doesn’t work. Apollonia leaves him, the band breaks up and Minneapolis is turned into a massive sound stage. How do we know this? Well Graffiti Bridge is the sequel to this, and if you saw that, then you’ll know what real pain is. If some lunatic decides to go onto my Amazon Wishlist and buy me a copy of that movie, I’ll review that for you guys too. Until then, this review is over.
“Hey, this is my starring role. How come I’m not in any of the screencaps?”
That’s just how I roll, bitch.