In the hierarchy of celebrity romances, any pairing which appears to be a case of "opposites attract" will always come out on top. Girl next door Cameron Diaz and punk rocker Benji Madden? Love them. Tech bro Alexis Ohanian and greatest athlete in the world Serena Williams? I would die for them.
For me, a British girl who grew up on the Spice Girls yet usually fancies musicians who could do with taking a shower, Katy Perry and Russell Brand's relationship was the ultimate "opposites" pairing. Her: a wildly famous, beautiful and successful popstar. Him: A comedian with tousled-hair, skinny jeans and a reputation that most certainly preceded him. My two worlds had collided. What could possibly go wrong?
After a whirlwind – or as the singer later described it, "tornado" – romance, they got hitched in India at an October 2010 ceremony complete with lions and tigers (but no bears, oh my). Five months later, Katy's mammoth California Dreams tour began. This is where Part Of Me, her concert film, also begins – and, arguably, where the marriage begins to disintegrate.
I was roughly 22 years old when Netflix correctly assumed this is a concert movie I would like to watch. I can't actually remember the first time I saw it, because once the credits (and tears) rolled for the first time, I promptly hit play on it over and over on a daily basis.
Katy's relentless schedule included 124 shows, and at her behest, the tour cycle saw around 10 shows take place almost back-to-back before a few days off, which she'd spend with Russell. In order to see him, Katy racks up an alarming amount of air miles — but he rarely joins her on the actual tour or meets her in the cities in which she's performing.
Just as they're often slow to reveal themselves in real-life, the cracks in Katy and Russell's relationship gradually become wider and unavoidable on screen.
Russell's appearances in the documentary, which mostly sticks to charting Katy's career-defining tour, are fleeting at best, and his absence speaks volumes. Visibly frustrated and exhausted, Katy attempts to balance the biggest tour of her life with single-handedly trying to save her marriage. When it all falls apart, her heartbreak is laid bare and I'm not kidding when I say it's one of the most visceral depictions of a split I have ever seen (sorry, Marriage Story).
Released months after the break-up became public, the film effectively filled in the gaps left by the tabloids. Katy doesn't recount exactly what happened – though we now know Russell broke things off via text – but her devastation does the talking.
At one particularly heartbreaking point, an exhausted Katy is on a private jet when she quietly asks the label staff, assistant and manager who surround her: "Where is my relationship based?" She's literally flying high, midway through a gigantic and record-breaking career event with achievements and number ones stacking up.
While Part of Me is very much a Katy Perry production – complete with glossy performance footage and glowing words from people who work with her – it's unflinching portrayal of her break-up is incredibly raw.
In the to-camera pieces filmed after the split, Katy speaks openly and sums things up succinctly with the gut-punching line: "I did everything it took and it still failed." In another interview, she's asked if she still misses Russell and promptly breaks down into tears.
The most devastating moments are the candid ones. In Sao Paulo in September 2011, two months before the divorce would hit headlines, she lays on a chair in a darkened room, clutching a necklace Russell bought her as a gift and just sobs. Everyone around her, who she kept the relationship troubles a secret from, is stumped. In a genuinely caring tone – though this line does not read as compassionate when written down – her manager Bradford Cobb says: "You can cancel the show, or you can do your best." Readers, she does the show.
At the time I watched the film, I'd graduated from college the summer before and after months of internships and countless job applications, I'd rung in the New Year utterly, totally unemployed. As you often do in your late teens and early twenties, I was searching for deep lessons in everything and then suddenly, there was Katy one of the greatest pop stars in the world, powering through after splitting from a guy born in the town next to a shopping centre I once worked at.
Her grief was was fueled by a shattered illusion of what her future with Russell would look like, and as a young post-grad struggling to find my way, balancing the expectations I held for myself and my reality, her sadness was deeply relatable.
"If Britney got through 2007…" is an overused and possibly problematic saying (it should definitely not be printed on mugs, people!), but as a young woman with over-dramatic tendencies, I naturally felt like Part of Me was a sign that I, too, could get through anything.
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