Throughout the years we saw the release of E.T., Ghostbusters, Gremlins, The Terminator, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Back to the Future, and even the critically acclaimed (ok, maybe not critically acclaimed but I like it)Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. The 80's were chock-full of creative movie ideas, but it was also a great decade for music. In 1984, a twenty-something by the name of Prince made one of the most iconic movies of our time, combining both with amazing result. On Today, July 27th, I look back at the charismatic rock musical Purple Rain.
Purple Rain was Prince's film debut, and was the only film that he starred in but did not direct. In the movie he plays The Kid, the front man for The Revolution. Sound familiar? It should. The movie was loosely based on Prince's actual life. All of the film's characters, excluding Prince and his parents, retained their real life names. It also starred Morris Day (and The Time), Clarence Williams III (as Father), and relative newcomer Apollonia Kotero, a former Rams cheerleader.
The movie was originally written for Vanity, of the girl group Vanity 6, to be the leading lady. She left Prince's stable before the movie began shooting, and Jennifer Beals was approached prior to landing on Apollonia. Vanity would move over to Motown Records, starring in Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon the following year. A year after that she starred alongside John Stamos in the so-bad-it's-good Never Too Young to Die*.
**I really wanted to mention that movie because it is peak 80's and Gene Simmons plays an evil hermaphrodite gang leader named Velvet Von Ragner. Oh, you're welcome.
Purple Rain is filmed mostly in Minneapolis, which is Prince's hometown. It opens at the First Avenue night club with "Let's Go Crazy", and we get our first glimpses of The Kid, Morris, and Apollonia. Morris and The Kid have a budding rivalry; the former is seeking ways to get the latter removed from the club by talking with Billy, the owner. Morris has the idea of an all-girl group. He has the password, too. Well, sort of.
The Kid lives at home with his parents, an interracial couple. His father is physically abusive to his mother, and is then physical to The Kid when he tries to intervene. The Kid is pompous and arrogant to everyone else, rubbing many the wrong way including his band mates. He has almost reached the point of top-level jerk. They attempt to share songs with him, but he is dismissive. He is interested in Apollonia, and pursues her, taking her for a ride on his bike and a misleading dip into Fake Minnetonka.
Morris is also in pursuit of Apollonia, trying to get her to join his girl group. I think it's fair to say his intentions were not all about music. After seeing a performance of "The Beautiful Ones" by The Revolution - which makes this woman straight-up cry - she goes back to The Kid's home, and they go to Erotic City. Soon after, Apollonia decides to join Morris' group, and upon delivering the news to The Kid she is met with quite the ridiculous backhand. Seriously, she 360'd into a dresser. Maybe he IS just like his father?
The Kid is ramping up the intensity of his shows, as he is told that one act will be cut from the club. His band plays "Darling Nikki" with Morris and Apollonia in the crowd, which embarrasses her. After the show The Kid becomes physically destructive to match his already self-destructive nature, taking his anger out in the dressing room and his own basement. He has officially reached top-level jerk status. Things are falling apart for him at the club, and with Apollonia; at home his mother has left and his father attempts suicide, albeit unsuccessfully.
This is the turning point. The Kid, not wanting to be a failed musician like his father, picks up a tape created by his band mates. It inspires him to look at the Man in the Mir-- oh, wait, wrong guy. Sorry. It inspires him to make music and to do something with his father's old compositions.
That night The Revolution plays a song written by Lisa and Wendy of the band. That song, my friends, is the eponymous "Purple Rain". He dedicates it to his father. A man cries a man tear. The Kid goes to leave after the song, but is drawn back to the venue by the audience's cheers. We then get a montage placed over the film's final song, "I Would Die 4 U". It shows us The Kid and his mother visiting his father in the hospital, and The Kid with Apollonia in his basement. He never meant to cause any of them sorrow or pain.
Purple Rain is a sometimes over-dramatic movie, made much better by outstanding musical performances. Its soundtrack is the third-best-selling soundtrack of all time, behind The Bodyguard and Saturday Night Fever. It is not without it's quirks; there are several clear visual errors on-screen. There were "easter eggs" within the movie, too, as you can notice song lyrics being used for dialogue at times. There was a sequel to it, the widely unpopular Graffiti Bridge (1990). Tevin Campbell was in it.
Prince's legacy is strongly tied to both the song and film. Purple Rain is one of his most memorable musical creations and definitely his most favorable theatrical effort. It was the last movie to receive the Academy Award for Best Original Song Score. After his death, there were tribute screenings of Purple Rain for a week at select AMC theaters. On June 23, 2017, the remastered soundtrack was re-released and included bonus discs of unreleased music From the Vault. There will never be anything like it.
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%