If you go by Purple Rain‘s IMDB page, it looks like the movie is a joke: most of the cast members never appeared in a single other movie. On paper, it seems absolutely implausible that this movie happened. Prince is an awesome musician and performer, but his acting is cringeworthy. Apollonia is gorgeous, but she basically exists to be mostly naked. Morris Day is a badass, but his schtick wears thin. Basically, I feel the way about Purple Rain that I feel about porn: great performances, but why did they try to ruin it with all that storyline?
The music in Purple Rain stands the test of time: I first heard “When Doves Cry” years ago, and it’s still powerful now. Prince is one of the great performers – swirling around in high-heeled boots and humping the stage, he sells every note of his songs. But all the overwrought scenes with his parents just had me shaking my head at their badness. I know the movie is loosely based on Prince’s life, but there are so many weird things going on in the movie – like the fact that his character doesn’t even have a freaking name – that it’s hard to care. His father’s name is “Francis L”? Please. It’s also weird seeing Prince, Mr. Sexuality himself, trying to be sensitive or romantic with a woman when it’s clear he just wants to take her pants off. It’s sort of like that dude in your freshman comp class who invites you over to join his study group for the midterm, but when you show up at his room he’s all alone, sitting on his beanbag chair and offering you an oversized glass of peach schnapps.
There was one thing to keep me distracted during all the stilted acting: the clothes. Holy fucking shit, the clothes. Waistcoats! Pirate shirts! Lingerie! Asymmetrical powder blue leather jackets! That guy who wears scrubs the whole time! I don’t know if we ever caught the name of the girl with the platinum pixie cut, but her clothes were the best: little sparkly dresses and cropped jackets. And the scene where Prince (oh, sorry, “The Kid”) sings “Purple Rain” and they cut to everybody in the audience is phenomenal – so much bad neon ’80s makeup. It was like some depressed mimes decided to do Nick Rhodes impressions.
Overall verdict? I loved this movie. Yeah, the acting is terrible, but the music makes up for it, and it’s a great relic of the ’80s. Yeah, I might have to wear out my fast-forward button a little bit, but there are enough one-liners and weird Morris Day facial expressions to make watching the movie worth it. Can somebody start doing midnight screenings of this movie a la The Room? We can shoot water guns at the screen when Apollonia purifies herself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka.