One Direction: This is Us
Formed from rejects from his British TV show X-Factor, Simon Cowell created the group One Direction. Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne didn’t know each other before Cowell put them together. They’d never sung together and didn’t know if they would even like each other. That was in 2010. Now, One Direction is the most popular band in the world, selling out every date on their tour in a matter of hours in locations as diverse as their home in the UK to the rest of Europe, America and Asia. Their meteoric rise is chronicled in “One Direction: This is Us,” a documentary directed by Morgan Spurlock, most famous for his Academy Award nominated documentary “Super Size Me.” Along with archival footage of their beginning, the film also follows the band around the world on tour, going behind the scenes to show what their lives on the road are like. We also see them interact with family and their fans plus see a great deal of concert footage.
One Direction isn’t my kind of music. While I can appreciate the beat and the catchiness of the music and hooks, their songs sound very much like one another. Their lyrics are mostly expressions of love to a girlfriend or encouragement to just be you and not succumb to pressure to change. They are simple ideas expressed with simple melodies and harmonies. Young women seem to lose their minds with the band members are anywhere nearby making it impossible for them to walk down a street or lead any kind of normal life without lots of security. The boys are aware of how weird their job is and seem to have a fairly strong grasp on reality; namely, that one day it will all go away. “One Direction: This is Us” is not a groundbreaking behind-the-scenes expose about how these young men (no one in the band is older than 21) present a united front on stage but off stage they hate each other. These boys actually seem to be best friends, if the documentary is to be believed. Director Spurlock has turned a very friendly eye to the band and doesn’t appear to try and stir up any simmering animosity between the members. While I’m sure many of the non-concert situations were contrivances to show the band members as best buds (like a camping trip in Sweden that ends with them sitting around a fire discussing their lives), the impression the audience will get is that these boys actually are a strong-knit group who act as each other’s friends, family, confidantes and protectors.
Surrounded by dressers, choreographers, stylists, musicians, sound techs and private security, the members of One Direction have very little privacy which was reduced further by camera crews following them around including in the bathroom and peering in on them while they slept on their tour bus. That probably explains their love of pranking the support staff and each other. The boys are shown running around like children in a toy store ignoring pleas to come together and get to work or try on a new stage outfit or take publicity photos. They will commandeer any vehicle they can at a venue to delay having to start working. They despise choreography and don’t do much of it and when they do, it’s disjointed and sloppy. They don’t want to be seen as just another boy band. I’m sure every boy band has had that same desire but One Direction seems to be trying hard to avoid the pitfalls of the genre. Add to all of this that the boys are very likeable blokes who love their families, love the towns they came from, love their fans and, despite the fatigue and constant travel, love to perform. While One Direction’s music might be considered simplistic and vapid, the boys themselves are actually more complex than you might think.
The film, shot with 3D cameras, has a crisp, distinct look to it. The concert footage, which makes up about half the film, is shot with lots of flying or dollying cameras with the band mugging whenever they get close. The 3D brings much of the stage show to life with either the boys punching at air or confetti cannons blasting colorful bits of paper at the viewer. Digital effects are used to sweeten the experience with expanding ripples or spaceships and other images flying off the video screens that make up the backdrop of their stage show. One Direction can’t be accused of putting on a lazy performance and the 3D adds to their energy.
“One Direction: This is Us” is rated PG for mild language. The worst curse word I heard was “damn” and that was in a lyric of a song. The boys are shown in various stages of undress and frequently shirtless, showing off their numerous tattoos. As a prank, one of the boys gets pantsed near the end of the film.
The music of One Direction may make your skin crawl and some may consider seeing a movie about them akin to water boarding. If you have young children, namely early teen girls, who demand to be taken, it probably won’t be as painful as you are expecting. You may possibly find that you’re tapping your feet with the music. At worst, you’ll come out of the theatre with a headache from their music, the 3D or the screams of the concert crowds that after a while are reminiscent of nails on a chalkboard.
“One Direction: This is Us” gets four guitars out of five.
There are only two new films to choose from this week. Vote for the next movie I review.
Riddick—Left for dead on a sun-scorched planet, fugitive Riddick fights for survival against alien predators more lethal than any human he has yet encountered. His only hope for escape is to activate an emergency beacon, but that brings with it a different problem: mercenaries.
The Spectacular Now—A three-dimensional portrait of youth confronting the funny, thrilling and perilous business of modern love and adulthood.
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