We take another look at the height of Prince's media takeover, Purple Rain.
Artist. Guitarist. Vocalist. Icon. Prince.
Although we've already reviewed and listed all of Prince's movies, I've decided to take a closer peek at his most vital cinematic work, Purple Rain.
Upon another viewing late last night, it was easy to see how important this movie was to the man's career and his huge progression in the decade's music scene. Through the eyes of The Kid, an emotionally scarred guitarist/singer/songwriter, audiences are thrown into his tormented home life, the effects it had on his romantic relationships and the fictional creative barriers it caused between him and The Revolution.
At the height of the purple one's career, he took over the small screen on MTV, the concert stage, the record stores, and the film world as he delivered a nearly perfect rendition of the '80s in all its glory. Centered on a a loosely based autobiographical story, Purple Rain (the movie and album) came at the perfect time when Prince was in top form and had blurred the lines between his own sexually charged funk, guitar rock, dance music, and the electronic instruments that were about to take the musical world by storm. Even with its minor blemishes and sometimes strangely paced soap opera-ish melodramatics, Purple Rain is the rare film that blends story with danceable concert performances and characters stripped right from the pages of an '80s magazine.
If anything can be said for Purple Rain, it's one of the rare times where concert footage is nearly believable and shows the impeccable stage persona that Prince and his band took on. With choreographed movements and routines designed to fit the artistic productions of his songs to the personification of the stage character he created, the movie is deeply flawed in some areas but ultimately treated fans and moviegoers to Prince's humorous side and let us see inside his process as a person and songwriter. Using a fictional musical rivalry between The Revolution and The Time, the club scene backdrop is mostly unbelievable and somewhat cheesy but still remained interesting for the entire run time.
What seems to drag the movie down overall is that the entire lead cast is made up of non-actors. Prince had never played an onscreen role before and Apollonia had just been introduced to the world of entertainment as a whole. After Prince's falling out with Vanity (initially cast in the role), Apollonia became his new progeny and was introduced to fame and the world of acting to little effect. Her role here is grating at times, played far too innocent, and ultimately drags Purple Rain down a few notches. Hinging on sexuality alone, she delivers. However, if they had used an actress that could blend eroticism with acting talents, the movie could have been way better. With other non-believable rookies playing main roles, Morris Day and Jerome Benton, the movie does its job but is uncomfortable in some spots.
The biggest and best thing about Purple Rain is obviously Prince's original music. While he had already been a top tier pop musician, his songs here are heartfelt, sincere, and dynamically written. From the onset of Let's Go Crazy at the beginning of the film to the weirdness of Computer Blue and the orgasmic hip gyrating action of Darling Nikki all the way to the final moments when he performs Purple Rain, this is an icon at the top of his game opting for a complete media takeover. And it worked. The movie was a hit. The album went multi-platinum. And the follow up tour (which I actually attended) was a massive success that drove Prince into the upper echelon of pop stardom.
There will never be another Prince. And there will never be another movie that truly captures the essence of a musical era on screen like Purple Rain did. Some may argue that the negatives outweigh the good here. I'll retort. The '80s were a special time when people like Prince and Michael Jackson changed the pop culture landscape for our happiness and for the betterment of humankind. Purple Rain is a visually unique snapshot of a better decade when musicianship still mattered and when sexuality was garnering a stranglehold on what we listened to on the radio and at concerts.
If you've never seen it, give Prince the respect he deserves. Rent it or buy it. It's time you experience Purple Rain in all its glory. Rest in peace.