What If Purple Rain Was Good?

I’ve given it some thought, and I think it’s possible to give Purple Rain the Belated Media treatment, and it’s not even really that difficult. Just a few broad edits (not sure if pun is intended there or not), and you’ve got not just a showcase for fantastic concert-like footage; you’ve got a movie that doesn’t suck.

Here’s how it’s done.

1. Farewell to Olga Karlatos. The zombie who is the Kid’s mom doesn’t need to exist. In fact, you get a lot more story out of, say, her tragic death of a heroin overdose many years ago. Or a freak bus accident. Whatever. Sorry, but I’m killing the Kid’s mama.

As things stand, there is no reason to like the Kid’s father (Francis L.), and yet the Kid’s relationship with him is offered as the movie’s main dynamic. This can be improved by making his dad less bizarrely monstrous and more sympathetic.

In the current incarnation, what drives Francis’ dysfunction? Seemingly, it is a severe dissatisfaction with his wife. He is possessive of her; he expects her to clean the house, and he does not think she appreciates him; indeed, the only warmth between the two is when they are lasciviously necking on the sofa, to which the Kid refers as a “freak show.” Otherwise, Francis is hitting her, yelling at her, or bitterly regretting his marriage to her. And, meanwhile, the character of the Kid’s mother is so insignificant that she has no name in the script; she is only “Mother.” Why bother with this ghost of a character?

If you’re going to make her a ghost, make her a ghost. Francis would be more sympathetic if his mean treatment of the Kid comes out of loneliness and grieving rather than bitterness and resentment. I want more conversations between Francis and the Kid, and I want to see some warmth between them, too, some talks about, you know, your Mom really was great even though she was X, or, your Mom thought the world of you, that kind of thing. As it stands, Prince’s character is so bizarrely estranged from his father that you feel that the two are meeting for the first time.

Also, Francis’ story is never finished. We last see him in the ICU after his botched suicide. This is not a satisfying story arc for this character who is so vital as a driver to the story. We don’t need all the internal melodrama, what with the Kid imagining the chalk outline and his own suicide attempt and all that nonsense. What we do need is a full story arc for Francis L.

I say in the end, Francis L. shows up at First Avenue, the Kid credits his Dad onstage for the music he wrote, and we see Francis then introduced to a nice lady, and he and she walk off with Clarence Williams III mugging a leering sideways smile. This resolves Francis’ story, allowing us to hope that he will no longer be lonely and grieving. This gives his story a full arc and also lets us hope things will improve between he and his son.

2. Broadway Baby. The only reason to have Appolonia be from out of town is so that she will be completely unfamiliar with the local marine geography.

So, I’m sorry. But I may be about to kill the “Lake Minnetonka” scene.

Because aside from that, Purple Rain would work better recasting Appolonia as a Twin Cities gal born and bred, who is ambitious but more confident in her talent than she ought to be and who is perennially frustrated that she’s not on Broadway by now. In fact it might even be interesting to say that she was called back once for Cats but couldn’t afford to stay in the city long enough and had to return to Minneapolis to save up to go back. Something like that. Let’s expand her background and give her more than her hotness.

After all, a beautiful performer doesn’t just show up in Minneapolis to embark on a career in show biz. That just doesn’t make sense. It’s more believable that she grew up in Minneapolis and has Broadway dreams. Not to mention that this has an added bonus of affecting another weak plot point, too.

I mean, explain to me, please, the feud between the Kid and Morris? You really can’t. First they feud over nothing, and then this broad shows up and they’re feuding over her, even though neither Morris nor the Kid knows anything about her besides the obvious. But if these two have had a past with Appolonia, say, if they once all played in the same band but broke up (as is *kind of* the case with Prince and Morris), their feud has far deeper motivation.

Not to mention, the movie as it stands makes The Kid and Morris appear equally petty and superficial, qualities we want to see more strongly in our antagonist rather than in our protagonist. In the end, we’re made to feel that the Kid was purer of heart after all, but we don’t know why. Give their feud a stronger background and the Kid’s victory at the end resounds more strongly.

3. Composed by… Sorry, Wendy and Lisa, but you did not write “Purple Rain.” Appolonia did.

To a large extent, Purple Rain feels like a game of Wac-a-mole. Wendy and Lisa poke out for a minute, then they’re gone. Hey…Jill Jones just said a thing. Neat. Dr. Fink, look, there’s Dr. Fink. There are a lot of appearances, but they do little to help the story along.

Meanwhile, the conflict between Appolonia and the Kid just isn’t strong enough and only serves to impugn our antagonist with the very unlikeable quality of being a possessive idiot who slaps women with the back of his hand. But there is a different seed in the movie, in Appolonia’s request for career help. We can up the ante on this conflict if she, rather than Wendy and Lisa, authored the eponymous tune.

I don’t want the band to have any speaking parts. Leave them up on the stage, okay? I love Wendy and Lisa, but they are so insubstantial that I’d rather apply a synergy to their story by giving it to the love interest. How about if he refuses to play *her* song, thus driving her to the perceived infidelity of working with Morris?

By the way, I know this probably means you’re going to have to recast the role of Appolonia because, you know, you’re going to need someone who can play guitar. Sorry about that.

4. Jill Jones is Jar-Jar Binks. Let’s face it. She’s nice to look at. But her acting makes Sofia Coppola seem dynamic. We can easily do without the Jill character.

Bonus: Kill The Dumpster Scene. One of the more problematic scenes is when Jerome, at Morris’ direction, throws some broad into a dumpster. I say lose the scene, and not even because of its misogyny. Lose it because it doesn’t help the story, not one bit. We don’t know who the woman is or why she’s being dumped. She is not relevant to the overall story, though it does reveal Morris as an inscrutable prick. However, I want more time for story here, and the dumpster scene is nearly 45 seconds. I say lose it.

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