Review: Purple Rain

Prince plays The Kid, a rising singer-songwriter with the band The Revolution (including Prince’s then real-life bandmates Lisa Coleman, Wendy Melvoin, and the unfortunately named Brown Mark). His arch-rival is posturing twit Morris (Morris Day), lead singer of The Time, whose music seems more in tune (no pun intended) with what the audience at the club they perform, wants. In the middle of all this comes Apollonia, an aspiring singer who becomes romantically involved with The Kid, but theirs is a rocky relationship, especially when she agrees to be managed by the slimy Morris. The Kid meanwhile, also has to contend with a volatile former musician father (Clarence Williams III) always abusing The Kid’s mother. Somewhere in all of this an actual story allegedly exists.

Given Prince’s rather premature passing in 2016, I feel kind of bad not seeing this 1984 film until just recently. Directed by Albert Magnoli (who also edited the film) and written by Magnoli and William Blinn (Creator of TV’s “Starsky & Hutch” and “Eight is Enough”), I regret even more that I have to say that I was completely unimpressed by the film. Barely a movie at all, it’s a string of songs by Prince and his cronies, and so far as Prince’s songs go, I’m very far from a fan. I love two of his songs (‘When Doves Cry’, ‘1999’), can tolerate a couple more (‘Let’s Go Crazy’, ‘Get Off’, ‘Sexy MF’), and absolutely detest the rest. Yes, that includes the seemingly endless dirge that is the title tune. So while I respect Prince to some extent as an artist and icon, this is clearly not a film aimed at me. As I said, it barely bothers to be a film at all.

We open with ‘Let’s Go Crazy’, which isn’t a bad song, but there’s way too much MTV-editing, it’s completely insane. In fact the opening 10 minutes are mostly a montage of stage performance and people glaring at each other amateurishly. The acting on the whole (largely from Prince’s real-life cronies and bandmates) manages to be pretty amateurish, and I’m not talking about the star himself. Prince is very far from an actor here, but he didn’t need to be when he seems to be playing a barely fictionalised version of himself. And boy is he fond of himself, as his leading lady spends most of her scenes merely glaring at him in various stages of orgasm. He isn’t the problem though, hell for the most part the music isn’t really the problem either. The script is. After 17 minutes we’ve had a whole slew of characters introduced without truly introducing them or this world. Morris Day, an alleged musician of some sort, is one of the worst actors I’ve ever seen, playing a hopefully heavily fictionalised version of himself. Probably designed to be a bit of a poseur, this guy’s a completely embarrassing wanker of a human being and an agonizing irritant on a cellular level. Every scene with him and his effete posturing is excruciating, he gives a foolish performance cast as a foolish tit of a man. Leading lady Apollonia isn’t much better (though she looks great naked), but even the one legit actor in the film, Clarence Williams III is not well-served by the film. Williams is an actor capable of immense power, but he isn’t afforded more than half a dimension here as Prince’s unstable and violent father.

Meanwhile, the main character Prince plays (given the corny, clichéd moniker ‘The Kid’) is a major hurdle. This ‘Kid’ is a completely unlikeable piece of shit, why would you allow yourself as a non-actor to be cast in such a role for what is really meant to highlight your musical talents and image? He plays a woman-beater, and being that the character’s father also abused women is no excuse, especially since the film isn’t ambitious enough in storytelling to get around to properly dealing with that whole father/son/masculinity/cycle of violence stuff. Instead it’s on to the next musical montage, ‘coz we gotta pump that record out y’all.

I said earlier that the title song is an interminable dirge, but it’s completely obvious the film needed to end on it. Instead we get two more forgettable pieces of velvet-coloured crap that just don’t seem to fit the point in the film in which they are featured. That was a cock-up if you ask me, it kinda deflates the film right at the end.

No, this one just didn’t do it for me, and having a fairly loathsome egotist for a protagonist doesn’t help. Everything outside of the music is an embarrassment here, and I’d wager even then only Prince fans will get anything much out of this (Some people call it their favourite film ever), because his music seemed to be largely love it or hate it. For me, I love two of the songs, but a lot of the rest is terrible. Sorry, but there’s no real movie here. Even “Moonwalker” had more movie to it (despite it too being a collection of songs with minimal overall storytelling), and the music there was brilliant from top to bottom. This isn’t good at all, think I’ll just stick to watching the ‘When Doves Cry’ video clip. Prince fans will likely completely disagree.

Rating: D+


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