By Mary Thornton
Musical "biopics" are a popular draw both now and back in the 1980's, but few capture the essence of a performer like the (very), fictional musical Purple Rain. While not offering much in the way of biographical information, the musical performances and story of the film serve as a perfect time capsule for someone who's fashion and style imprinted him on the memory of a generation. Neither the movie or the artist once and always called Prince or the movie Purple Rain will be forgotten any time soon.
I don't consider myself very knowledgeable about music in general, but everything about his impressive discography was familiar to me. I also grew up with an older brother who would regularly play the Purple Rain album, and actually watching the movie as a kid with my brother was my first and only time seeing it before this night.
All things considered, once you sit back and accept that this is less of a factual account of a musicians life and more of a wild ride through a influential and uniquely-80's album, everything else starts to feel a whole lot more natural. Often when discussing the relative quality of artistic biographies, the conversation becomes weighed down by a fact-checking competition. Usually any film that achieves a completely accurate (or close enough), representation falls into the same heavy and predictable tone. Last year's Get On Up comes to mind as a biopic of a musician that had great performances and musical segments only to fall flat in telling a story with the style of the musician it represents, and from the reviews it seems like this year's Nina is another one that falls into the same trap.
In comparison, there is absolutely no mistaking Purple Rain as a Prince production. Absolutely everything from the musical performances to the romance to the costumes (see left), are 100% inspired by and created to be a part of this story and film. And sure, there might be groan inducing moments that go along with it and there is absolutely no mistaking this for a totally factual account of the musicians life, but from the reception in a theater of Prince fans, these points were secondary.