Purple Rain (1984)
March 2, 2016 8:45 PM - Subscribe

A young musician, tormented by an abusive situation at home, must contend with a rival singer, a burgeoning romance and his own dissatisfied band as his star begins to rise.

RogerEbert.com: While much of "Purple Rain" is fun, there’s an off-putting streak of misogyny running through it. It’s a bit much even by ‘80’s movie standards. Women are treated as either lust objects or shrews. Members of The Time violently toss a woman into a dumpster. The Kid won’t listen to Wendy and Lisa because they’re women. The Kid’s father, Francis L (a scary Clarence Williams III) constantly beats the hell out of his nameless wife (Olga Karlatos), leaving her on the street bruised and battered. Late in the film, she apparently drives him to shoot himself in the head. Rather than run like Hell while Francis recuperates, she stays by his side.
Taking a page from Dad’s playbook, The Kid beats Apollonia more than once. She leaves but keeps coming back for more, because, as The Kid sings, the beautiful ones will hurt you every time. This didn’t play too well in 1984, and it plays even worse today. As a love story, "Purple Rain" is far from a success.

NYTimes: In one of the dizziest of the film's nonmusical interludes, the Kid takes Apollonia for a motorcycle spin in the country, tricks her into skinny dipping while he, fully clothed, looks on and then, when she tries to climb back onto the bike for the return to town, he maliciously teases her by pretending to drive away. Instead of belting him, as might be expected, she comes to understand his desperate longing for love and his inability - because of dad and mom - to give it. Where is Dr. Joyce Brothers when a kid really needs her?

Purple Rain at 30: Why it's the musical that defined the 80s

The Purple Rain Story

posted by MoonOrb (14 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I love this film.

It's astounding that I Would Die 4 U, Baby I'm a Star, and Purple Rain (with edits) are all from the same live show. Which was Wendy's first live performance with the band. (From the very hard to find 'Making of Rain' bootleg.)

Also The Time's album Ice Cream Castle was written and performed by Prince. (And of course Prince's character in the film is referred to as The Kid and the song "If The Kid Can't Make You Come" is on The Time's album.)

The Verge did a pretty good writeup too.

posted by Catblack at 3:28 AM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

That retrospective review from rogerebert.com (which, it should be noted, isn't actually from Ebert; his original review is oddly absent from the site, but this Village Voice retrospective has an excerpt) is remarkably ungenerous. The follow-up to the paragraph quoted above is, "Granted, Purple Rain tries to show The Kid changing his perception of women, most notably in how it handles the epic title song. Prince’s performance of 'Purple Rain,' the song Wendy and Lisa kept trying to pitch him, is so emotionally resonant that one almost buys this change in The Kid." In fact, the movie shows The Kid as having been abused by his dad, along with his mother, and is spurred by his father's attempted suicide to break the cycle of abuse. It's not super subtle--really on a par with an after-school special--but for what would be a self-aggrandizing, self-mythologizing film from just about anyone else, I think it's pretty impressive. (Ebert noted in his review that the drama was wedged in between the extensive amount of music in the film; in addition to full-length performances of an entire album's worth of songs--in fact, the version of "Let's Go Crazy" in the film is much longer than the one on the soundtrack--there are two full-length numbers from Morris Day and the Time, one from Apollonia, and even an excerpt from Prince's former guitarist's new band.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:27 AM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
To get through this thing called life

Electric word life
It means forever and that's a mighty long time
But I'm here to tell you
There's something else
The after world

A world of never ending happiness
You can always see the sun, day or night

So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills
You know the one, Dr. Everything'll Be Alright
Instead of asking him how much of your time is left
Ask him how much of your mind, baby

'Cause in this life
Things are much harder than in the after world
In this life
You're on your own

And if the elevator tries to bring you down
Go crazy, punch a higher floor
posted by valkane at 7:36 AM on March 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Kid's initial rejection of Wendy & Lisa's song I think isn't necessarily because they're women. Or at least not just because of that. I always mostly read it as The Kid thinks he is THE SHIZZNIT and artistically not willing to entertain any contributions from those "beneath" him. He tries to rule the band, and everyone around him, like a dictator, until he gets a wake up call that he's on a path to his own self-destruction.
posted by dnash at 7:58 AM on March 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

I don't find the rogerebert.com review to be an ungenerous interpretation at all. I remember watching this movie with some friends on VHS back in the late 80s early 90s; the men in the crowd basically bought into everything bad the picture was communicating about women. At one point, I expressed dismay that the Clarence Williams III character was beating his wife black and blue, and one of the men commented, "Well, what do you expect? She cheated on him." If it wasn't meant to be misogynist, it certainly sent a misogynist message to some viewers. And I, as a woman in my early 20s, certainly experienced it that way.
posted by holborne at 9:19 AM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah I kind of thought that review was right on the money and explains why the movie doesn't have the staying power that it otherwise might. It's pretty consistent with Canby's NYT review, so it's not as if it's some radical reinterpretation of the film. There are lots of great and amazing things about PR, but it was also seriously misogynistic.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:25 AM on March 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I remember the Lake Minnetonka scene from a couple years ago being pretty gross, with the Kid negging a girl to make her like him. The only way he looked appealing at all was in comparison to the other guys in the film, and 'does not have a henchman throw his ex in a dumpster' is a very low bar.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:18 AM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

holborne, all I can say is that I hope that you've got a better class of movie-watching buddies these days.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:42 AM on March 3, 2016

Happily, I do.
posted by holborne at 10:57 AM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think the movie was attempting to address its own misogyny -- in fact, I think that's the dominant theme of the film. It's just not made well enough to do so effectively, and so ends up minimizing it. But it does try to tell the story of an artist who is failing at life, and part of that failing is that he has absorbed his father's misogyny, and until he rejects that and learns to respect both his girlfriend and his female bandmates, he's stuck.

Admittedly, there is a problem with a film that thinks the biggest issue with misogyny is that it keeps a male musician from being a star.
posted by maxsparber at 12:39 PM on March 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

the misogyny was gross, it's true. like really pretty bad.

However, I went to a sing-a-long showing of Purple Rain and goddamned it was fun. Prince was really at his peak here, and the over the topness of everything. damn.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 11:32 PM on March 3, 2016

When I was in France, our local theater did a revival showing of Purple Rain, and the French subtitles on the English language track did a really charming job trying to replicate Prince's typographical quirks ("would die 4 u"). An example would be like, if someone was talking about tomorrow, the subtitle would read "2main."

Another great thing was that people were literally dancing in the aisles during "Baby I'm a Star." It was one of the best moviegoing experiences of my life.
posted by witchen at 8:39 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

This movie was the absolutely shizzle my first year of college. I lived on a floor of my dorm with a bunch of seniors, and every single woman had the poster from the "Purple Rain" album. I put one up, too.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:14 PM on March 4, 2016

I watched it for the first time a couple weeks ago in preparation for seeing Akounak this weekend. I found pretty much everything that wasn't a musical performance pretty cringe-inducing, mostly because of the misogyny. But holy shit the musical performances. Those were utterly incredible in every aspect.
posted by EvaDestruction at 6:29 PM on April 21, 2016

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