Her story starts as a sweet gospel singer, raised by her Pentecostal Christian parents without any other musical influences. It's only when sneaking off to a friend's house that she hears her first rock music, Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know," which inspires her to write raw, personal lyrics about her own life.
At 18, Perry moves to Los Angeles, trying to make it as a singer and songwriter. The friends she made in those early days, the documentary tells us, are the people she still has in her entourage. These include her manager, personal assistant, costume designer and make-up artist and all of them testify to Perry's work ethic, drive and loyalty.
Then there are her fans, the "Katy Cats," who worship the pop star not just for her catchy songs but for her inspirational message of individuality. This message is strongest in her hit "Firework," an anthem for personal expression that tells people to "ignite the light and let it shine, just own the night like the Fourth of July."
And, through it all, the movie shows us, the rebel Perry is still close to her family. She visits her grandmother in Las Vegas, has her mother (who doesn't approve of her first single, "I Kissed a Girl") visit backstage, and has her sister Angela on her staff coordinating backstage visits for fans. (Perry's fans now know to look for Angela at concerts, because she's the one who chooses fans for meet-and-greet moments, and to join Perry on stage during a cover of Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody.")
She isn't a pop star; she's a candidate for sainthood.
And yet, the cynicism melts when the movie shows us Perry's determination to please her fans, keep her ego in check and carve out time during her busy "California Dreams" world tour so she can visit Brand. But as the tour grinds on for months, we see the emotional and physical strain on the singer just before the news breaks of Perry and Brand's divorce.
The prime reason for this movie's infectious spirit is Perry's performance in concert. With elaborate costume changes (seven during the song "Hot 'n' Cold") and energetic dancing, Perry leaves it all on the stage. She says her goal is "to make them smile and enjoy themselves," and it's clear she achieves that, both in person and on the screen.
'Katy Perry: Part of Me'
The pop star gives her audience her love, and vice versa, in this valentine of a documentary.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Opens today.
Rating • PG for some suggestive content, language, thematic elements and brief smoking
Running time • 90 minutes.