Purple Rain (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Albert Magnoli|
|Produced by||Robert Cavallo
|Written by||Albert Magnoli
Clarence Williams III
John L. Nelson
|Cinematography||Donald E. Thorin|
|Edited by||Albert Magnoli
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Running time||111 minutes|
|Box office||$68.4 million|
Purple Rain is a 1984 American rock musical drama film directed by Albert Magnoli and written by Magnoli and William Blinn. In it, Prince makes his film debut, which was developed to showcase his particular talents. Hence, the film contains several extended concert sequences. The film grossed more than US$80 million at the box office and became a cult classic. Purple Rain is the only feature film starring Prince that he did not direct. The film won an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score, currently the last film to receive the award. It was nominated for two Razzie Awards, including Worst New Star for Apollonia Kotero and Worst Original Song for "Sex Shooter".
Prince is the talented but troubled frontman of his Minneapolis-based band, The Revolution. To escape his difficult home life - his father is verbally and physically abusive, and his mother is emotionally abusive - he spends his days rehearsing and his nights performing at the First Avenue nightclub. Competing with the Revolution for First Avenue's three house band slots is the flashy and arrogant Morris Day and his group The Time, as well as Dez Dickerson and The Modernaires, although their part in the overall story is minimal.
The film opens with the famous "Let's Go Crazy" sequence, comprising little edits of punky/New Romantic-looking people in the crowd, and Prince adjusting his eyelashes and face on the mixing board. During this sequence we see Morris at home with an Aunt Jemima kerchief tied around his head, posing in front of his mirror, and Apollonia pull up in a cab outside. She ditches her fare and runs to a hotel across the street. After getting a room, she heads over to the club where she sneaks in past the burly bouncer and gives her name to an annoyed waitress named Jill, hoping to perform at the club. She lists her age as 19 and can sing/dance. Apollonia is transfixed by Prince’s guitar solo and performance (She moved to the city, checked into the hotel room, and passed her contact info to club management in the final two minutes of the song), then is transfixed anew by Morris Day as he and The Time perform "Jungle Love". She turns around to find Prince staring at her intensely, donning a pair of round mirrored "John Lennon glasses" and he moves to stand right behind her, making her feel shy. By the time she can muster an "I really liked your song, too", he has left.
Prince rides home on his purple motorcycle. He goes in to find his father beating up his mother; he tries to break them up and gets hit himself. The next morning, he enters the club and the waitress Jill gives him a cassette containing an instrumental by Wendy & Lisa, members of his band, but he doesn’t want to listen to it due to his fear of trusting others. Morris senses that Prince's guitarist, Wendy, and keyboardist, Lisa, are growing disgruntled with his leadership of the band, especially his refusal to play any of the music they have composed. Taking advantage of the situation, Morris lobbies Billy Sparks, the nightclub's owner, to back a more commercial girl group (which Morris is already forming) to replace The Revolution. Morris and his humorous sidekick Jerome are watching two girls (the other two members of Vanity 6) performing a dance and are dismayed at the direction the band is headed, knowing it needs an extra spark. Morris believes Apollonia, whom he saw at the club the night before, would be a good lead singer for his girl group.
Apollonia stops by a mall and encounters Prince, who asks her to give him a bracelet off her boot. He then takes it and walks off, jokingly refusing to give it back. He reveals to her that he wants an expensive guitar in the window, which she notes. After handing back her bracelet, they go for a long pastoral country ride on his motorcycle, and both struggle to hide their smiles in happiness of each other's company. They stop by a lake, and Apollonia asks if Prince could help her become successful, and he agrees as long as she "purifies herself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka". Apollonia, after giving him a sly glance, proceeds to undress as Prince looks on expressionlessly. She jumps into the cold waters of the lake, but he informs her that the body of water she just jumped into is not Lake Minnetonka. He then kick starts on his motorcycle and makes her think he has left her to walk home, which results in extreme anger and insults from her. However, he circles back after a few seconds to pick her up. When she lifts her leg to get on the bike, he mischievously guns the engine and pulls ahead. He does it again before finally letting her on. When she does get on the bike he cheekily looks back and says, "Don’t get my seat all wet" and she kisses his cheek as they drive back to the club, signifying the beginning of their romantic relationship as "Take Me With U" plays.
Seeing Prince drop Apollonia off, Morris targets her for the girl group and tries to persuade her that Prince will never help her establish herself because he can't even establish himself, and insinuates that "he's never done anything for anyone else in his life." Apollonia is unsure and decides to think about his offer. That night, Prince sees her being escorted into the club by Morris and launches into a heart-wrenching emotional performance of "The Beautiful Ones", an open letter to Apollonia asking whether she chooses him or Morris. Apollonia, affected heavily by this performance, goes to Prince's house that night and witnesses his parents fighting. In his room, they begin touching each other tenderly and talk about their lives before meeting each other, then have sex. Apollonia wakes up in the middle of the night to hear Prince's mother getting abused upstairs and, terrified, leaves the house quickly. It is shown that Prince was awake and heard his parents fighting as well.
Apollonia soon agrees to join Morris's group, and in her happiness sells her ankle bracelet in order to get enough money to buy Prince the expensive guitar he wanted when they first met. Prince's parents burst into his room fighting and hitting each other. Prince shoves his dad off and lies dejectedly in the corner as they continue to argue. Later on, he is ecstatic upon receiving the gift from Apollonia and they kiss, but she reveals to him that she is joining Morris's girl group. Angered that she is joining his rival's group, Prince momentarily loses control and slaps her hard, causing her to hit the dresser. He tries to apologize and warn her about Morris's selfish intentions, but she is furious and crying and demands that he leave her alone.
The next day at the club, Billy Sparks wants to talk to him and tells him about a new girl group called Apollonia 6 (whom Prince pretends not to know). He warns Prince that he isn't pulling audiences like he used to, and if he doesn't fix his act up, Billy will be forced to kick him out. The song "When Doves Cry" plays as Prince rides around the city recalling his love and memories for Apollonia, as well as his failed relationships with her and his parents. He finds his mother battered and crying at a bus station, and infuriated, rushes home to confront his father. His father speaks with him and warns him to never get married. At the club, Prince responds to the internal band strife and pressure to draw more crowds with uncomfortably edgy performances of "Computer Blue" and "Darling Nikki". The implications of the latter performance (about a "sex fiend" who left him quickly) publicly humiliate Apollonia, who runs off in tears, and anger both Morris and Billy, which only makes Prince's problems worse. Billy confronts Prince furiously, pointing out his father's wasted musical talent and stating that he's following the same path. He tells him that he has one more day to do a stellar performance, otherwise he'll be kicked out. The premiere of Apollonia 6 is a success (which Prince watches in angst, as Jerome gave him tickets to the premiere), and Billy again emphasizes to him that his slot is threatened. Prince finds Apollonia with a very drunken Morris and rams his motorcycle into him, rescuing her as Morris screams curses. They drive to a railroad yard, where they once again start arguing and he tries to take liquor away from her. She slaps him and he hits her back. He stops just short of striking her again, and she taunts him about his violence before walking away and leaving him alone.
When he returns home, he finds the house a mess and his mother gone. As soon as he turns on the basement light, his father - who had been lurking in the basement with a loaded handgun - shoots himself in the head. In a frenzy after a night of torment (which includes his father being rushed to the hospital with his worried mother in pursuit), Prince begins getting visions of attempting to commit suicide himself. He tears apart the basement with a stick to let his anger out, and finds a large box of his father's musical compositions. He picks up a cassette tape of one of Wendy and Lisa's compositions - a rhythm track titled "Slow Groove" - and begins to compose a song from it for the next day.
At night at First Avenue, all is quiet in the Revolution's dressing room, where everyone is nervous about the upcoming performance and whether it'll save their careers or not. The Revolution are sick of Prince. The Time finish their massively successful performance, and Morris stops by to taunt the Kid about his family life and how his father attempted suicide. He is later shown to be remorseful about this. Prince ignores him and once on stage, announces that he will be playing "a song the girls in the band wrote", dedicated to his father - revealed to be "Purple Rain". The song portrays how he abused those closest to him and how he wants to atone and become a better person, to get to the "purple rain". The first verse is about his parents, the second about his ex-girlfriend, and the third about his band-members. The emotional and distraught performance is followed by a blistering long guitar solo and an affectionate kiss on Wendy's cheek, and by its end, Billy nods his head slowly as he knows Prince will keep his place at First Avenue. As the song ends, Prince rushes from the stage and out the club's back door, intending to ride away on his motorcycle because he is convinced his latest song would be hated. However, he stops short - the crowd is thrilled by his new song and he gets a colossal ovation. He returns to the club to be greeted by the approval of his fellow musicians and audience, and embraces the teary-eyed and forgiving Apollonia. He returns to the stage for two encores with the Revolution, performing upbeat powerful versions of "I Would Die 4 U" and "Baby I'm a Star" to the wild approval of the crowd (even Morris and Jerome, who have moved on from the past). Overlaid scenes show Prince visiting his father in the hospital and kissing his sleeping parents, as well as cleaning up his basement with Apollonia, who is back with him. The movie ends with Prince posing with a guitar on stage and the screen freezing. A reprise of all the songs plays as the credits roll.
- Prince as The Kid
- Apollonia Kotero as Apollonia
- Morris Day as Morris
- Clarence Williams III as Father, a.k.a. "Francis L."
- Olga Karlatos as Mother
- Jerome Benton as Jerome
- Jill Jones as Jill
- Dez Dickerson as Dez
- The Revolution as themselves
- The Time as themselves
- Lisa Coleman as Lisa
- Wendy Melvoin as Wendy
- Sheila E. as Morris' Jilted Date
The film is tied into the album of the same name, which spawned two chart-topping singles: "When Doves Cry" and the opening number "Let's Go Crazy", and "Purple Rain" which reached #2. The film won an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score. The soundtrack sold over 10 million copies in America alone, and 20 million worldwide.
- "Let's Go Crazy" - Prince and the Revolution
- "Jungle Love" - The Time
- "Take Me with U" - Prince and the Revolution featuring Apollonia
- "Modernaire" - Dez Dickerson and the Modernaires
- "The Beautiful Ones" - Prince and the Revolution
- "When Doves Cry" - Prince
- "Computer Blue" - Prince and the Revolution
- "Darling Nikki" - Prince and the Revolution
- "Sex Shooter" - Apollonia 6
- "The Bird" - The Time
- "Purple Rain" - Prince and the Revolution
- "I Would Die 4 U" - Prince and the Revolution
- "Baby I'm a Star" - Prince and the Revolution
Prince developed the concept during his Triple Threat Tour. Initially, the script was to be darker and more coherent. Prince intended to cast Vanity, leader of the girl group Vanity 6, but she left the group before filming began. Her role was initially offered to Jennifer Beals (who turned it down because she wanted to concentrate on college) before going to Apollonia Kotero, a virtual unknown at the time. Prince had seen her appearance on the February, 1983 episode of Tales of the Gold Monkey, in which she played a saucy island girl who was sleeping with a German man of the cloth. Excluding Prince and his on-screen parents, almost every character in the movie is named after the actor who plays him or her.
After the character change from Vanity to Apollonia, the script was drastically revised and many dark scenes were cut. Some of these scenes include Prince and Apollonia having sex in a barn (a concept which was the story behind the 1985 song "Raspberry Beret"); Prince going to Apollonia 6's rehearsal and engaging in a physical fight with the members of The Time; and a scene which featured Prince's mother talking to him about her shaky relationship with his father. In addition, many scenes such as the Lake Minnetonka scene, Apollonia first meeting Morris, and the railyard scene were cut down because of time restraints. Many clips from these scenes were featured, however, in the trailer for the movie as well as the "When Doves Cry" montage.
Principal photography took place almost entirely in Minneapolis, the film features many local landmarks, including the Crystal Court of the IDS Center (also shown in segments of the opening credits to The Mary Tyler Moore Show) and the legendary First Avenue nightclub. First Avenue was paid $100,000 for use of the club in filming; it was closed for 25 days. A notable error, either geographic or taxi fare-related, shows Apollonia running up (and bailing on) a $37.75 cab fare going from the Greyhound Station to the nightclub. In reality, they are just across the street from each other.
The Huntington Hotel, where Apollonia stayed, is located at 752 S. Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90014. This was a late pickup shot and is shown in the movie to be across the street from First Avenue. The motorcycle Prince rides in the film is a customized Hondamatic Honda CB400A.
Purple Rain received positive reviews. It currently holds a 74% rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes and a 45/100 rating on Metacritic. The film was a box office success, grossing $68,392,977 in the United States.
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