Purple Rain

Written by Albert Magnoli & William Blinn. Directed by Albert Magnoli. A talented yet troubled musician must face his personal demons before becoming a star. Running time 1 hour 52 minutes.

Synopsis

First Avenue nightclub, where everyone who wants to be a star gravitates. The Kid (Prince) and his band The Revolution is rocking it out playing “Let’s Go Crazy” while beautiful newcomer Apollonia (Apollonia Kotero) makes her way into the club. Then while The Time, with frontman Morris (Morris Day), rival band of the Kid’s, is performing, Apollonia is noticed by the Kid. *She’s noticed by everyone*

The Kid goes home to his abusive household where his dad Francis L (Clarence Williams III) has beat his mother (Olga Karlatos) again. The next day, Morris and club owner Billy (Billy Sparks) discuss The Kid’s attitude not being right for the club and Morris pitches the idea of a girl’s group which Billy likes.

Meanwhile, The Kid and Apollonia hit it off and spend the day together riding his motorcycle eventually riding to a lake where Apollonia strips off her clothes and jumps in thinking it is a special lake and in doing so will convince the Kid to help her get into show business. She finds out after it isn’t a special lake and gets angry to which the Kid responds by driving off and leaving her to put her clothes on and then comes back for her and they make up instantly.

The next day, Morris meets with Apollonia at the club to talk about the girls group and himself. The Kid plays a song bringing tears to Apollonia’s eyes and they go home together. The Kid plays a music track of a woman crying played backwards and they have sex.

A day or two later, Morris later asks Apollonia to join the girl group and forms the band Apollonia 6. She agrees but decides she has something to do first before telling the Kid. Apollonia shows up late to the Kid’s house bringing a new guitar as a gift for her new love which he loves until she tells him she’s joining Morris’ group. He slaps her sending her reeling across the room and she leaves.

While the Kid reflects on his life and the last few days with Apollonia, she rehearses with the girls and Morris. Meanwhile, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman from The Revolution have been writing songs but the Kid never wants to play them. Then, the Kid comes home to a broken up house and his dad playing the piano in the basement. They talk about his music and never getting married.

Next evening at the club, The Kid and The Revolution play a sexually suggestive song “Computer Blue” until the Kid sees Apollonia in the audience with Morris. He then plays a sex charged song pointedly to Apollonia which makes her upset and leave.

Apollonia has a great debut at a different club, The Taste, with the new group Apollonia 6 and their single “Sex Shooter” which the Kid sees. Later, the Kid goes home to find his mother beat up sitting on the curb. He goes in to look for his father and just as he flips the switch for the basement, his father shoots himself. The Kid, upset at everything, throws a tantrum in the basement breaking everything in sight until he comes across a box of sheet music written by his father. He decides to listen to the song Wendy and Lisa recently made and write a song combining the two.

The next night, the Kid and The Revolution play the song “Purple Rain” in honor of his father–who didn’t die–everyone goes crazy. Including Apollonia. Then more music and then a final look.

What I Liked

This film was released in 1984. Everyone I knew was listening to Prince. People were dressing like Prince. If we could’ve gotten away with it, we would’ve dressed like Apollonia, too. Some people were as it was the beginning of Madonna, too, so wearing underwear as outerwear was making its way into the mainstream.

The music, oh the music. You cannot listen to any of these songs without knowing the lyrics or dancing. A movie with music not only as entertainment but supportive to the narrative? Yes, please.

The acting is pretty good considering the few actual actors cast. Mostly people being themselves with a camera rolling which is both good and not so much good when you think about it….Prince is fascinating to watch. He was so much more than a pop/rock superstar. His talent went beyond music genres and if you ever find yourself with a bit of time, YouTube some of his acoustic and more intimate performances as well as cover songs and instrumentals.

What I Wished Was Better

I kinda wish his father had completed the suicide. I mean, not to be mean; but I feel the impact of his father’s legacy would have been stronger as well as the implications of his mother never being free of the man who abused her. Upon research, I learned the original script did have that as his fate but they felt it was too heavy and changed it.

I had forgotten (nostalgia and the love a great soundtrack does that) about the MASSIVE amounts of sexism, misogyny, and mixed signals about relationships this film has. Wow. The fashion wasn’t really the issue, for me. It was the constant barrage of anti-female dialogue and narrative. Prince tells Wendy & Lisa multiple times no one wants to hear their music, makes fun of them, and shuts them down repeatedly. Yeah, he has a change of heart but…Morris and his assistant refer to women as “sexy’s” and has his assistant Jerome (Jerome Benton) throw one of them into a dumpster after she confronts Morris for standing her up.

The many scenes with Prince and Apollonia…hot and cold. She keeps coming back for more. She’ll do anything apparently. He pranks her into jumping into freezing cold water, then leaves while she tries to put on her leather outfit on a cold, wet body, then bumps his motorcycle while she begs him to let her on. Nice guy. Slapping her after she gives him the guitar, humiliating her with the “Darling Nikki” song… I mean these scenes grate on my nerves but I guess there wouldn’t be much of a movie without them. A music genius is also an egotistical woman-user so it’s justified? Ew.

The biggest thing that bugs me about Purple Rain is the soundtrack. Prince and Morris Day had a feud which allegedly led to no one else’s music being included on the soundtrack. Nothing from The Time, Apollonia 6, or the band seen at the top of the movie which had a cool song, um, something about being a modernaire…

Final Thoughts

Purple Rain is iconic, the music immediately infiltrates your body and soul, and it calls back to a nostalgic time of sex, provocative, and anthem style music. Pop anthems before they were called anthems…Even with the at times cringy, man-ego heavy dialogue–it’s still one of the best movies with music ever released. I watched on Prince’s birthday, June 7th, as part of watch party but it’s available to stream. Watch the trailer below:

Fun Facts: Vanity, Prince’s then girlfriend, was supposed to be in the film but they broke up–or she left–and was replaced by Apollonia. The relationship between Prince and Wendy & Lisa was strained in real life, too. Apollonia was married at the time of the filming but wasn’t allowed to say it so fans would think she and Prince were a real couple.

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