Review – Purple Rain (1984)
The 80s was a glorious decade for movies and music, and right at the forefront of this was Prince. Now, if i’m being honest, i wasn’t what you’d call a fan, i knew of him and i realised he was huge in the U.S.A. I loved When Doves Cry but the whole Prince thing kind of passed me by. Apart from that one track, i guess he just wasn’t my cup of tea…..until now.
I watched Purple Rain for the first time last night, and when the end credits began to roll, i found myself wondering, how this brilliant movie had remained well under my radar for over 35 years, and had it not been for a conversation with a work colleague, about classic 80s movies, it probably would have remained there. After this little chat, involving remarks such as “Can’t believe you’ve never seen Purple Rain”, it was straight onto Amazon to order the bluray.
Pizza with all the trimmings ordered, it was time to sit down and take a look at this classic slice of the 1980s. I’d always had a preconceived idea of what the film was about, i’d always thought it would be some boring concert movie, held loosely together by some vague plot….how wrong could i have been.
Prince plays a young guy known by everyone as “The Kid”, and he fronts a band called The Revolution. They regularly play a club in his home town of Minneapolis, alongside a rival band, The Time, featuring lead singer Morris Day. There’s no love lost between these two men. Both are arrogant, self obsessed and both have a complete disregard for their respective bands. The Kid also comes from an abusive home, thanks to his violent and fist happy father.
Then along comes Apollonia, a girl from out of town, full of the hopes and dreams of a future star. She latches onto The Kid, and they begin a slightly odd relationship, until that is, he displays some of his fathers abusive behaviour, and he loses her to his rival, Morris Day, who promptly puts her in his band. Things go pretty much downhill from there, leaving you wondering how on earth, if at all, things are going to improve, and come to anything close to a satisfying conclusion.
Purple Rain is not your standard, glamorous, rags to riches story. It’s bleak and quite dark. The scene where The Kid slaps Apollonia is genuinely shocking, and i have to say, caught me totally by surprise. This was the point in the film, along with a surprisingly explicit sex scene, where i found myself wondering what certificate this movie had back in 1984. It carries a “15” certificate now, but way back then i’d be very surprised if it got anything less than an “18” or an “R” rating in the U.S.
That being said, this is a hugely entertaining movie. The plot is solid and the concert scenes are scorchingly hot. Much has been said about Prince’s acting ability over the years. He’s no Robert De Niro for sure, but there are two things you can’t take away from him. For one, the man knows utterly and completely how to command a stage, and i have to say with all sincerity, that every time Prince was on screen, i couldn’t take my eyes off him, he had a presence like no other. I have also seen over the years, many rock stars trying to take on Hollywood in the acting stakes, only to fail miserably, so all credit to him, in my opinion he did a pretty decent job.
The highlight of the film for me was the final concert scene where he played Purple Rain, and followed it with two amazing tracks i haven’t heard before, I Would Die 4 U and Baby Im A Star. I think i can safely say this one of the most electrifying stage performances i have ever seen, bar none, and to have seen this in a theater, would have been worth the price of admission all on its own. Needless to say i will be ordering the soundtrack very shortly.
To sum up, i would highly recommend Purple Rain to anyone with even a passing interest in the 80s, and the music of the time. Personally i loved this movie, it’s more than worth 111 minutes of anyones time, and i will definetely be watching it again in the not too distant future.