So I watched Purple Rain this weekend. I have thoughts.
I of course watched it having read the book, Let’s Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain by Alan Light. It is a breezy read and a fascinating study of probably the most significant pop culture development of my adolescence. And, the Purple Rain is certainly worth considering 30 years later.
It is fortunate that this movie is light on story and heavy on fantastic performance footage, that it can lean on some of the best music of the day, and that the girls look nice. Without that fortunate exception, Purple Rain would be a terrible movie.
You find out in Light’s book that once Prince decided to make a movie and had successfully twisted corporate arms to make it happen, he immediately put his band into acting lessons. I suspect the camera performances came before these folks ever learned about the importance of motivation.
Why does Appolonia go to Minneapolis? Why are the Kid’s parents so utterly dysfunctional? Are they tweakers? What is the cause of the rivalry between the Revolution and the Time? It seems so utterly personal, but we’re never offered that story. Why is the Kid so controlling over his own band? What’s with the puppet? Is the Kid a worthy antagonist? Sure, he’s cute and a snappy dresser, but he’s also prone to weird tantrums and misogynistic episodes, including a fondness for the “bitch slap.” And why, after beating the living crap out of his family’s collection of jams and preserves and then making a complete mess of all of that sheet music, does the Kid then relent and start listening to the chord changes that will become “Purple Rain?” And why are people so rabid about the band Appolonia 6 that they’re somehow a threat to the Kid’s employment prospects? What did I miss there?
I do not understand why anyone in this movie does anything, with the possible exception that everyone wants to bang Appolonia. Aside from that, I do not know what is motivating anyone in this film to do anything, sans some sort of mass psychosis breaking out in the Twin Cities circa 1984. (If it is, I think its epicenter is the house where the Kid and his parents live.)
Fortunately, Purple Rain has Morris and Jerome, and it has that wonderful concert footage, and, oddly enough, the performance of “Purple Rain” does manage to redeem the antagonist, Prince as the Kid, though at its end he stomps off and has another weird sputtering tantrum before Jill Jones helps him realize there are encore calls happening. (She’s carrying a puppeh. For some reason the Kid gave Jill Jones a puppeh but the scene got cut.)
So, yes, if you’re up for some nostalgia, it’s certainly worth giving Purple Rain another look. Do not expect a good movie, however.