This weekend marked the 30th anniversary of the release of Prince’s cinematic opus, Purple Rain. To commemorate this momentous occasion, I rewatched it for about the 30th time and jotted down a few thoughts. Thirty of them, to be specific. Perhaps you’re sensing a theme here.
And away we go:
1) The plot of Purple Rain, if you haven’t seen it, and shame on you if you haven’t, is as follows: Prince plays The Kid, a very Prince-like musician who overcomes a Prince-like home life to win over the audience and a gorgeous woman in a very Prince-like manner. He also has a purple motorcycle, which he rides all over Minnesota, sometimes for transportation and sometimes for deep thinking during montages.
2) It’s kind of a mess. I mean that with all the love in the world, both for the film and for Prince. But it is. One minute it’s a HEAVY tale about a son struggling not to follow in his father’s abusive footsteps, the next there’s an extended, vaudevillian “Who’s On First?” gag about passwords for picking up girls. This wouldn’t be an impossible problem to overcome if a solid 40% of the film weren’t musical performances and motorcycle brooding, but that makes it a bit of a tight squeeze for those wild swings in tone.
3) But who gives a sh*t? I just said 40% of the movie is Prince performing his songs and cruising around on a dang purple motorcycle. Four stars.
4) Prince’s love interest is a woman named Apollonia. Apollonia has come to Minneapolis from noted barren music wasteland New Orleans, Louisiana to try to kick start her music career. She says this last thing out loud and no one laughs at her. Purple Rain is magical.
5) All she brought with her from NoLa, apparently, was a dream and a suitcase full of lingerie and leather. She fits in perfectly. Example: These are the outfits she and Prince wear to go window shopping in downtown Minneapolis. Sensible and practical, if nothing else.
6) Whenever people mention Apollonia they tend to jump right to the “Purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka” scene. There are a few reasons for this, ranging from the fact that an attractive woman jumps almost completely nude into a frigid lake, to the legendary Chappelle’s Show sketch, to the way “Minnetonka” rolls off the tongue in the same sentence as the word “purify.” It’s a fun collection of syllables to say out loud. Go ahead. Try it a few times. I think you’ll agree.
7) One other note about that scene: In real life, I imagine it’s damn near impossible to get a full-body, skin-tight leather outfit back on right after stepping out of a lake. This is why it’s best to plan out your day before getting dressed in the morning, if possible. It’s also why I rarely wear leather anymore.
8) Prince’s relationship with Apollonia in the film is a rollercoaster. He convinces her to jump naked into a lake and then drives away, he sings a song to her to win her over, they have really pretty graphic sex, she buys him a guitar and two seconds later he gets jealous and slaps her, he sings “Darling Nikki” and she storms out of the club, he basically kidnaps her while she’s hanging out with another man and then assaults her a second time, then he wins her over with a song again. Lot going on in this movie.
9) Speaking of that graphic-ish sex scene, here’s my favorite part: Prince — the cool, motorcycle-driving funk musician bad boy of the frozen tundra — brings his white-hot, leather-wearing performer girlfriend back to his parents’ basement to grope all up on her like he’s a horny high school junior.
10) Wanna hear a funny Prince story? Here’s director Albert Magnoli, from Spin Magazine’s oral history of the film: “We got to the restaurant — it was just a Denny’s or something like that — and sat in a booth. I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich; Prince ordered spaghetti and orange juice, which was one of his favorite meals.”
11) If the image of Prince sitting in a booth in Denny’s clad in purple leather and white lace from head to toe and asking a perplexed waitress for “spaghetti and orange juice” doesn’t make you smile a little bit, I don’t know what exactly I can do for you. You’re too far gone.
12) While I’m slightly off-topic, do you know what film Purple Rain bumped out of the top spot at the box office the weekend it premiered? I’ll tell you: Ghostbusters, which had been number one for seven consecutive weeks. Shoutout to 1984.
13) Let’s be really clear about something: Morris Day is the best part of Purple Rain, and it’s not even all that close. He plays the unabashedly evil lead singer of Prince’s rival group and spends the entire movie conspiring with the club manager to bounce Prince off the ticket in favor of a girl group fronted by Apollonia, whom he is trying to woo with pick-up lines like “Your lips would make a lollipop too happy” and “I wish you could see my home. It’s so exciting.” Regarding that last part: I have no doubt it is. No doubt at all.
14) He also dresses like a gangster from the 1930s and appears to be incredibly wealthy despite his only source of income being nightly sets at one club in Minneapolis. He’s essentially a cartoon character.
15) Oh, and after Prince’s father tries to commit suicide, Morris walks down the hallway of the club singing a mean-spirited version of “Let’s Go Crazy,” and he doubles back after passing Prince’s dressing room to mockingly ask “How’s the family?” between fits of laughter.
16) But this is how he gets into a car, so I’m gonna give him a pass on most of that.
17) You know, I’ll say this. One of the nice parts of everyone dressing like a goofball in this movie is that it gives it almost a timeless quality by side-stepping your traditional 1980s stereotypes. I mean, kind of. Disregard this scene.
18) The other thread running through the film — the one not about an abusive father or inter-night-club politics or fingerbanging — has to do with the girls in the band bringing Prince a song to see if he wants to add lyrics to it and add it to the band’s set. Prince says no, repeatedly, at one point saying he doesn’t want to play their “stupid music,” even though the song in question is very clearly “Purple Rain.” (It’s nice to be the all-knowing audience at moments like this.)
19) Prince is a real asshole in this movie.
20) One time when he shoots them down he does so while holding a little pop-up doll that he voices without moving his lips, because — and this is something that is never addressed before, during, or after, despite being easily the most interesting aspect of the entire film — Prince is apparently an expert ventriloquist in Purple Rain.
21) I apologize, I’m jumping all over the place. I haven’t even mentioned the montage yet. After Prince slapped Apollonia for seeking Morris’s help to further her music career, and after he saw them together at the club, he takes off on his motorcycle as the opening notes of “When Doves Cry” kick in. Here are some things he does during this montage: ride his motorcycle through the woods, ride his motorcycle near some train tracks, ride his motorcycle to the studio where Apollonia is rehearing and stare at the building, throw a rock in a lake, stare at a lake without throwing a rock in it, have vivid memories of humping Apollonia in a hay-covered barn (?), climb things, think about his dad. I wish it had gone on forever.
22) It’s a good thing Prince won’t let anyone use his music for anything. If he did, I would probably spend all my time and money making montages set to “When Doves Cry” and uploading them on YouTube. The videos would get 100 views each and all the YouTube commenters would say awful things about them and me. It would be worth it.
23) HOLY CRAP I JUST REMEMBERED THIS KID.
24) So things are bad for Prince. His girl left him and is carousing with his nemesis, his band is pissed at him for being a jerk, his dad crapped all over his music career and then tried to kill himself, and the manager of the club is ready to kick him to the curb — for a litany of reasons, not the least of which being the fact that Prince and his band played a one-song set earlier in the film, which probably didn’t go over well with the paying customers — if he doesn’t bring the house down during the next performance. Not ideal.
25) This is a screenshot of Apollonia and Morris leaving the club together after her first performance. I’m providing it both as evidence of the “carousing with his nemesis” thing I just mentioned, and to point out that she walked out of the building in the outfit she performed in, which was literally just lingerie.
26) Here is why I bring this up: A) Considering she is half-naked and Morris is dressed for a chilly Minnesota evening, I’ve got to believe one of them is very uncomfortable, temperature-wise, and; B) I’m concerned all that lake water ruined Apollonia’s fancy leather outfit and now she has nothing left to wear but underpants. I’ve seen it a million times.
27) Also, Morris does this thing where he opens his coat and thrusts his hips a bunch while laughing in a way that makes him sound like a crow, which is his way of implying he would like to have sex. It’s remarkable. We should have let Morris Day become a bigger star.
28) Unfortunately for Morris and his wiggling pelvis, Prince shows up on his motorcycle and picks Apollonia up after knocking him into a pile of garbage. This is when he and Apollonia have that second fight. Like I said, not good times.
29) Anyway, after all this happens, Prince heads home to do some soul searching and composes “Purple Rain” on his father’s piano, using the tape the girls in the group gave him. He takes the stage, dedicates it to his father, and then proceeds to blow the roof off of the club and straight into outer space. The manager loves it. Apollonia loves it. The crowd loves it. Everyone lives happily ever after. The end.
30) Below, please find Prince’s performance of “Purple Rain” at Super Bowl XLI in Miami. I have said this before, but it bears repeating: You will never convince me that Prince didn’t summon the rain that night just to make for a better show.
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