Mini-Review: Purple Rain (1984)

Starring Prince, Apollonia Kotero, Morris Day, Clarence Williams III, Jerome Benton, Jill Jones, Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman, Bobby ‘Z’ Rivkin, Matt Fink, Brown Mark

Directed by Albert Magnoli

Expectations: High. I am a newly converted fan of Prince and hoping for something amazing.


In the grand scheme of things, Purple Rain isn’t a very good film. The story is really loose and the acting is questionable from a good many of the players, including Prince himself, but don’t be discouraged because Purple Rain is amazing. The live footage is some of the best filmed concert footage I’ve ever seen and it is impossible to tear your eyes away from Prince’s  incredible stage presence. The stage lighting is also very impressive, washing every shot in a multi-colored sea of wonder. The opening scene, featuring the song Let’s Go Crazy, is worth the price of admission alone between the intense stage performance, clever storytelling and kinetic editing. Softcore fans will also be pleased with the extended and explicit love scene between Prince and Appolonia. I kept thinking they were going to cut away but they don’t, and questions of taste aside, that shit was sensual.

The story seeks to connect the songs from the Purple Rain album to a loose plot and it surprisingly works well enough to make this enjoyable, but it rarely transcends the overall feel of being an extended music video. When it does, it does so very well and the breakdown of Prince’s parents and his frustration with his love of Appolonia plays beautifully up to the final scenes when Prince busts out the epic song Purple Rain on stage. The sheer amount of emotion in the lyrics and the music burst forth and are given new context from the surrounding story, all without killing what backstory I had built up for the song in my own listenings. That is to say, the song alone conjures up the same emotions as the film seeks to connect to it, so the film’s backstory only solidifies my intense feelings for the song.

Purple Rain is an emotional film that will reward Prince fans and possibly convert some new ones as well. I don’t see how anyone could deny the sheer force of nature that Prince becomes when he steps on stage.

4 comments to Mini-Review: Purple Rain (1984)

  • dumbricht

    First and foremost, Purple Rain is one of the Great Songs – right up there with Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper (which has nothing to do with HG Wells, Malcolm McDowell or Jack the Ripper).

    I love this song so much that my old man rec league hoops team is named Purple Rain (ok we also wear Niagara University Purple Eagle practice jerseys as our unis).

    That being said, I’ll leave you with two words – Darling Nikki

  • Dan

    Can these films/records/feature-length-music-video things ever work. I love Purple Rain as a song and the album ain’t half bad but I’m not too keen on the film. Likewise, Moonwalker, was okay (some of it is brilliant of course) but it’s more bits and pieces than a film.

    • I haven’t seen Moonwalker (surprisingly because I love MJ) but you’re right that these types of movies are a hard sell. They’re always disjointed and very self-indulgent, but I still find them worthwhile for what they get right. Kinda like my love of horror movies.

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