Purple Rain (1984)

“He’s never done anything in his whole life for anybody but himself.”

Purple Rain Poster

Synopsis:
A narcissistic musician (Prince) from a troubled home romances a gorgeous wannabe starlet (Apollonia Kotero) while trying to prevent her from joining a rival singer (Morris Day).

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
In his review of this cult ’80s rock musical — which “catapulted… rock star Prince… into Michael Jackson megastar status” — Peary notes that “the story is trite and simplistic, and the direction by Albert Magnoli is crude, but the picture has enticing sexual tension… and the flamboyant Prince” (who evokes “the explosive energy of James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause“) has “undeniable charisma and charm”. Unfortunately, Prince’s character (based on himself) is also self-absorbed, petulant, immature, and abusive, to an insufferable degree; at first glance, he’s no one we could ever root for, but what finally helps to redeem him in our eyes is seeing the pain he experiences in his violent home (he’s clearly reacting to, and imitating, his dysfunctional parents), and watching him perform on stage, where he truly is “spellbinding” as he belts “out a soulful song, his fingers whipping his guitar”. With that said, Prince-the-performer is really the only reason to watch this poorly-acted and lamely scripted film, which amounts to little more than a full-length music video with a skeletal storyline. Others agree: Time Out’s reviewer, while acknowledging Prince’s undeniable charisma, calls it “at best predictable, at worst incomprehensible”, while Culture Cartel’s John Nesbit accurately notes that “were it not for some excellent music, this film would be a complete waste of time.” Nonetheless, I reluctantly recommend it as must-see one-time viewing for film fanatics, simply for its cult status and its Oscar-winning soundtrack.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Prince’s dynamic presence
    Purple Rain Prince
  • Some truly electrifying performances during the final half-hour of the film
    Purple Rain Performances

Must See?
Yes, simply as a cult film and for its Oscar-winning soundtrack.

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One Response to “Purple Rain (1984)”

  1. Not must-see – unless you have an interest in rock’n’roll based films or, more to the point, an interest in Prince at the height of his career.

    I’m in agreement: “Prince-the-performer is really the only reason to watch this poorly-acted and lamely scripted film…”. ~as well as Prince the songwriter. It’s hard to deny that Prince was writing some really nifty songs in this period, and the film is full of the rocker at his best: in particular (along with the title song) “Let’s Go Crazy”, “Take Me with U”, “The Beautiful Ones”, “When Doves Cry”, and “I Would Die 4 U”.

    I saw this film very soon after it opened in NYC, in an audience of real fans – some who were nevertheless not taken in by what passed for drama in the film. I recall, at one point, some guy responding with exaggerated faux-sympathy when Prince’s character was having a hard time on-screen (“Awwww…..Prince……”).

    It’s maybe not hard to understand why this film is rarely mentioned these days. It’s very much of its time, and its time was when Prince was a genuine and very new Star. There is electricity in his music – to be sure – but, as a real film, ‘Purple Rain’ is fairly forgettable.

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