Prince was already dominating music charts when he made his film debut in "Purple Rain," a movie tied into an album and song written by himself and The Revolution, his backing band at the time.
The movie was a box office hit in 1984 and is a cult hit decades later. The movie is regularly referenced in pop culture. Most movies featuring pop stars -- from the 1950s to Britney Spears and Kelly Clarkson in the 2000s -- were dreadful. "Purple Rain" was surpsisingly a good movie and currently has a 74% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes. While the movie feels somewhat dated and has its fill of 1980s cliches, it makes up with brilliant concert footage and a extremely personal and emotional story.
Here are seven reasons to love "Purple Rain."
1. The opening scene. The movie begins with Prince, known as "The Kid," blazing through his hit "Let's Go Crazy," in front of a packed house at the First Avenue nightclub in Minneapolis. As Prince wows the crowd, his soon-to-be love interest "Apollonia" (played by Apollonia Kotero) is shown coming into town broke, sneaking into the club and avoiding cab fare looking for a break into the music business. The story plays out perfect against the backdrop of Prince's blazing concert and is an explosive beginning to the film.
2. That guitar solo. In the mid-1980s, guitar heroes were king. Prince was a talented multi-instrumentalist, but also a virtuoso guitar player -- but few knew it. At the end of the opening scene, his guitar solo finish to "Let's Go Crazy" quickly earned him fans with hard rockers and others who didn't realize Prince was more than a pop singer who could dance, he was one of the most talented guitarists in music.
3. "You must purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka." The most memorable line of the movie, and the most referenced, it showed Prince had a good sense of humor and comic timing. Apollonia and Prince go for a ride on his motorcycle, stopping at a nearby lake, where Apollonia constantly harangues him for help in getting her start in the local music scene. Prince tells her no, surprising Apollonia. "You wouldn't pass the initiation," Prince says. Apollonia asks what the initiation is, Prince responds: "Well, for starters, you have to purify youself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka." Apollonia strips down, jumps into the freezing Minnesota water, gets out. Prince tells her, "That ain't Lake Minnetonka."
4. Morris Day and the Time. Every movie needs villains, and the villain in "Purple Rain" was a memorable Morris Day and his backing band "The Time." Prince's band and Morris Day shared two of the three coveted house band slots at the club. Day was conniving ways to get The Kid kicked out of his slot. Day eventually convinces Apollonia to work with him if she wants to have a career, causing her breakup with The Kid, and him to physically strike her. He mocks The Kid over a family tragedy. Unlike most films today which attempt to show villains as multi-faceted, there was nothing to like about or sympathize with Morris Day and The Time. After the movie, his band went on to its own success on the pop charts and as an 80s favorite. The band was later a major plot point in Kevin Smith's movie "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back," which starred Smith, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Jason Lee.
5. Taking on issues of physical and emotional abuse. The Kid's father was physically abusive, often striking him and his mom. His mom was also emotionally abusive. Despite his local musical success, he still lives with his parents on the rough side of town. Like many who suffered abuse, a theme of the movie was The Kid trying to escape what had been done to him, and his own self-destructive tendencies, which set him down a path of following his parents. It was unusual for a movie at the time -- especially a movie so mainstream -- to take on abuse and the cycle of violence and its victims. This was the main plot of the movie: could The Kid escape his family and his past?
6. Prince stays home. A more typical pop music film would take place in New York or Los Angeles, with the star climbing their way through all the big clubs en route to selling millions of albums. "Purple Rain" is focused solely on Minneapolis and the club, the ultimate success retaining the house slot at the club. Despite his fame, Prince didn't move to Hollywood. He lived in Minneapolis until his death.
7. "Purple Rain": After the tragedy at his home, The Kid finds a box of his father's, filled with songs he had written over the years. A theme in the movie is his lack of cooperation with his bandmates, often leaving them out of contributing to the music. He makes a change later, combining his father's lyrics with music his bandmates wrote, but he earlier refused to play. After Day mocks his family life and his father shooting himself, the band takes stage. The Kid announces he's dedicating this song to his father, and says it's one the girls in the band wrote. They perform "Purple Rain" for the first time and group manages to connect with the audience.
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