As I did with other artists recently passed I thought it appropriate to take this week to talk about Purple Rain and its star, Prince. Or, as he was known through much of the 90’s, O(+>.
Sometimes described as semi-autobiographical, Prince interestingly plays a character that is not very likeable for most of this movie. While most movies about rising stars would have the protagonist start out likeable, then be led astray before coming back to their senses, Purple Rain skips the first step. Sure, he oozes charisma and talent, but he also is egotistical and abusive to his girlfriend. The movie implies that he is the product of an abusive home life but doesn’t allow that to excuse his actions. It really feels like Prince is playing a stubborn brat with his head up his ass for most of the movie. We want him to change his ways and succeed in the end because he’s Prince, but the character portrayed on screen never gives me a solid reason to root for him. This is just an unexpected choice, not necessarily a bad one. There is drama there that could work with the right actors.
The actors we have, however, are nearly all one note. Every character has one defining characteristic or motivation and they zero in on that all the way without any nuance or conflict. The only purpose anyone has is to serve Prince’s story. They come in, trigger the emotion they need to trigger, and leave. The only character other than Prince that stands out is his sleazy rival who realizes he’s the comedy relief of the movie and enjoys that role even if it is a paper thin one. Meanwhile Prince himself actually does a fair job portraying the internal struggles he goes through, although his best “acting” is always on stage.
And that’s why we’re here, isn’t it? All that criticism about the traditional movie elements barely even matter when the main attraction is the musical performances. There are many long concert scenes showcasing Prince’s undeniable skill as an artist. From his guitar solos and wailing vocals to his seemingly endless amounts of explosive energy each stage show is a treat. Prince brings his singular style to every song as well as the entire film. (I totally want his motorcycle.) I didn’t even really mind the thin characters I spoke of earlier as they did what they needed to serve this rock and roll fairy tale. Anything this film may lack in areas that I would judge a “traditional” movie by it makes up for with spectacle, style, and great showstoppers.
Taken as a drama, Purple Rain is painfully lackluster. But at its heart it really is little more than a concert film and a celebration of a great performer and it absolutely succeeds in that respect.
Now, dare I subject myself to Cool as Ice?
Other movies I watched this week (potential minor spoilers):
Neighbors – Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne play a couple that is delightfully loving AND crude. They go to war with a wild frat that moves in next door and hilarity ensues. There is the occasional smart joke amongst the (really funny) slapstick and dick jokes. Zac Efron and Dave Franco bring just as many laughs as the headliners in a movie that is fun time.
Cujo – Based on the Stephen King book a St. Bernard has a run in with a cave of bats and
vows to fight crime goes rabid. As the beast kills the random passerby and terrorizes a mother and son locked in a car the movie manages to make it look sufficiently intimidating. Decent performances tell the story of a family broken by infidelity trying to put itself back together but that plot never feels like it meshes with the horror resulting in a disjointed feeling that left me just waiting for the next scare.
Delivery Man – After donating a LOT of little swimmers to a sperm bank Vince Vaughn discovers that he is the father of literally hundreds of young twenty-somethings. As he becomes a part of these people’s lives he learns the value of family. Awww. This straightforward heartwarmer may tread a little on the saccharine side but some laughs and a likeable lead make this movie enjoyable.
Sinister – True crime writer Ethan Hawke moves his family into a murder house and contends with things that go bump in the night. Dirty super 8 reels of disturbing murders and ominous occurrences in the house create a very effective sense of unease and wrongness that I really enjoyed. Unfortunately it never manages to escalate things enough to feel like it pays off on its early promise.
Sinister 2 – A random side character from the first carries into the second as he tries to put a stop to the evil hauntings. The new characters’ stories are more engaging while the scares suffer from more explanations for the spirits. And yet, the climax is more exciting than the first’s. Between these two movies there is one really good horror flick.
The Hunstman: Winter’s War – This prequel sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman tells another story that is fairy tales meets Lord of the Rings while keeping Chris Hemsworth and ditching Kristen Stewart. Someone must have let the production and costume designers go wild when it came to the queen because everything around her is gorgeous. Her throne room, her gowns, her powers, her magical beasts, every design here captures the imagination. And just like the first one things seem to drag a bit whenever we’re away from her. Everything else in the world feels a little uninspired. Hemsworth is fun to watch as always and between him and the queen this movie is worth an idle watch to see the visually stunning parts.
Fruitvale Station – Based on the true events of the shooting of Oscar Grant at Fruitvale subway station in Oakland, California. Michael B. Jordan shines in this quiet drama as a troubled young man struggling to be a better son, father, and partner. While simple in terms of plot, the tragedy of knowing how it will all end is effective and sad. Octavia Spencer, as usual, gives a strong performance as well.
Making Contact – (This movie is also called Joey depending on who you talk to and which country you’re in.) This 1985 film from disaster porn director Roland Emmerich really wishes it was E.T. or Poltergeist. Young Joey’s father has passed away and his grief he befriends a talking ventriloquist dummy that is…evil I guess? I mean, it sounds evil, but I never know exactly what it wants. Or why Joey has telekinesis. Or what’s up with that monster hamburger. This movie has no rhyme or reason to what happens. It’s just a series of moments that are trying to emulate the style of Spielberg without any of the heart. There is something oddly charming about the absurd mess it is, but please don’t go through the effort I did to find an English dub.