Purple Rain

Release Date: July 28, 1984
Review Date: April 24, 2016
Reviewer: Blake Leath
Genre(s): Musical/Theatrical, Drama

Last night at Alamo, 300 of us gathered to pay our final respects to Prince.

Now, please don't be misled. I'm not some raging Prince fan. I'm just very sad he has passed, and thought it would be a meaningful send-off to see Purple Rain with lotsa fans as a thanks and tribute and final celebration of his life and times and tunes.

It was a really beautiful evening.

The pre-show (which amounted to a 30-minute video dance party and included Foxx's and Chappelle's impersonating skits) was, in and of itself, well worth the trip.

After it, the evening became a surprisingly sedate, somber, even sobering affair. Reverential, one could say.

Beginning, as it did, at 11pm, I expected a liquored and rowdy crowd. Instead, I got a memorial service at church. By the end, people were on their feet, swaying and waving those purple doohickeys that glow when you snap 'em to life. Men were singing at the top of their lungs and wives were crying in silence, tears streaming down their faces as they held their men's hands for comfort.

I sat beside a forty-something suburban mom in khakis and blue jean jacket who had ventured out alone. A tiny thing, maybe 5' 1" including her poofy brown bob, she captured in one sentence how I felt. "I don't really know all that much about Prince, but I wanted to say goodbye."

Yep, to say goodbye.

I shall say this, also. You know how somewith hindsight being 20/20often attribute meaning or providence or even prophecy (!) to coincidence or serendipity? Or, how some simply don't believe in coincidence, so everything is fateful? Well, regardless your perspective on such philosophical ruminations, the very first song in Purple Rain is the uproarious "Let's Go Crazy," and in light of Prince's life, his body being found in an elevator, and the way he appeared to have thrived so vibrantly until that full-stop, I profess I had goosebumps in 2 minutes flat. Here are a few select lines from that first song:

 

"Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today 
To get through this thing called life

 

Electric word life
It means forever and that's a mighty long time
But I'm here to tell you
There's something else
The after world

 

A world of never ending happiness
You can always see the sun, day or night

 

'Cause in this life
Things are much harder than in the after world
In this life
You're on your own

 

And if the elevator tries to bring you down
Go crazy, punch a higher floor

 

If you don't like the world you're living in
Take a look around you
At least you got friends

 

We're all excited 
But we don't know why
Maybe it's 'cause
We're all gonna die

 

And when we do
What's it all for
You better live now
Before the grim reaper come knocking on your door

 

Tell me, are we gonna let the elevator bring us down
Oh, no let's go!

 

Hang tough children

He's coming
He's coming
Coming

 

Take me away!"

 

* * *

Though a few scenes in the film had us chortling (particularly the Elaine Benes fan-dancing and the moment Prince rushes into his kitchen, searching in anger for his father and spinning 360° like a tiny James Brown top; it's quite comical; soda shot from our noses), the rest of the movie really stands the test of time. And the music is as great today as it was then: electrifying and soulful.

But back to foreshadowing, there is the treasure trove of music The Kid finds in the basement after his father is rushed to the hospital. Everyone anticipates voluminous posthumous releases by Prince's estate in the coming years; decades worth of songs, they say. Perhaps more than he released in his lifetime. Francis L., indeed.

And there is also that turning point in the film when Prince hears his father, nearing rock-bottom with his wife, pleading, "I can make you…happy. If you just believe in me. Yeah, if you just believe in me. I will die for you."

We eventually see The Kid's lot in life improvementoring the infamous Lisa and Wendyrealizing that otherwise he continues the sins of both his parents, one who is "never satisfied," and the other who is a perpetual failure bent on self-destruction by way of control, violence, and abuse toward his talented self, his entangled wife, and their sensitive, tormented son. Everyone in the triangle here is troubled, and always to musical oblivion.

I had forgotten the moments of tenderness and emptiness and despair, and the beautiful piano solo played by his father, yet performed by Prince.

He rips and tears every instrument he touches, grinds his Honda into the ground like Zorro on his trusty steed, and shreds both stage and screen again and again and again.

It's quite a sight to behold.

You may not recall, lo these many years later, but Purple Rain—made for just $7m—won the Oscar for Best Music (Original Song Score), the Grammy (Best Album, Motion Picture), the Brit Award (Best Soundtrack), and was nominated for a Golden Globe and four more awards that season.

Out of nowhere, starring nobodies, in the thriving metropolises near Lake Minnetonka.

Call it chance or happenstance; seems pretty destined to be if you ask me.