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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Purple Rain

It took Prince's death to get me to see Purple Rain, his film debut. I had seen none of his films before now, and after this I'm not eager to see any more. Prince was a great musician, but he was no actor.

Directed poorly by Albert Magnoli, the first thing that struck me about the film was how cemented into the '80s it is. Most of it is cut like an early MTV video, which I'm sure was intentional. The hairstyles are ludicrously dated, but that's just the way it goes with rock and roll, where styles change. I should add though that Prince was never out of style, and even today the image he presents--a man in a puffy shirt and a purple suit on a motorcycle--is still dashing.

Prince plays the Kid, who leads a band called The Revolution (played by the Revolution members themselves). He works as a house band in a popular club, but marches to his own drummer. His bandmates, particular Wendy and Lisa (playing themselves) are disgruntled that he won't listen to their songs, and a rival musician (Morris Day) tries to undermine him.

Enter Apollonia (played by herself), who falls for Prince, even though he cruelly leads her to jump into a dirty lake with no clothes on (the film has a major theme of abuse of women, but tends to be ambiguous about it). Day signs her up for an all-girl band, though. Meanwhile Prince is dealing with domestic abuse at home, as his father (Clarence Williams III) likes to slap around his mother.

I'm sorry to say that the only good parts of Purple Rain are the musical parts, whether the concert stuff or the songs between action. Prince tears it up in the opening with "Let's Get Crazy," and the climax is when he plays the title song, which makes everybody, even his enemies, pay close attention. But the stuff in between is pretty bad. The acting is on the level of amateur theatrics, with the primary perpetrator being Apollonia. Prince can hold the screen, but his delivery is mostly a monotone, except when he shouts.

Although he overacts, Day is pretty funny, especially in an Abbott-and-Costello routine with his assistant, Jerome.

Countless music stars crossed over and tried to be movie stars, and only a few have succeeded. My advice is to listen to the album instead.

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