Every time a boy band emerges on the scene the same statements get thrown about. Whether it is from the band themselves or from some reviewer or critic, we usually hear how this band is “different”, and that they are “not trying to be like The Beatles” and that they are “just trying to be themselves”. I would be lying if I said I was not a fan of the Backstreet Boys or Boyz II Men in their heyday but, once you get past the age of 14, you realize that these bands are all the same. It is just a process of rinse and repeat. Enter One Direction, or for purposes of efficiency: 1D. All five members auditioned for The X Factor (UK) as solo artists in 2010. Sadly, none of the boys made it onto the show as solo acts. However, due to Simon Cowell’s infinite well of showbiz wisdom, the boys ended up on the show anyway, in the “group” category. The exact category Mr. Cowell would be mentoring that season. While they made it pretty close to the end, One Direction still fell a bit short in the finals and were eventually eliminated. Clearly, that X Factor loss did little to stop 1D from basically taking over the pop charts.
One Direction: This is Us gives viewers a glimpse of what life is like for its members. Director Morgan Spurlock, yes, MORGAN SPURLOCK (Super Size Me, Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?) attempts to show us how the boys are “just boys” who magically ended up in one of the most successful boy bands in history. For the most part Spurlock succeeds. We see how they essentially went to audition for The X Factor… and never came home. We also see how hard these boys work and how grateful they are for every single fan they have. In terms of their hard work, the viewer witnesses Zayn (the ridiculously good looking one) being awakened only 10 minutes after falling asleep on the tour bus in order to complete some vocals for a track that will be on their new album. None of them complain about the amount of time and effort that goes into maintaining their stardom but, rather, they seem quite (adorably) amazed by it. The only time you see any sort of frustration is in relation to not being able to see their family.
However, the part where Spurlock loses me is in the scenes that appear quite staged. For example, Zayn purchases a new home for his mother and siblings. The camera crew is with his family when they first get the keys and take a look at their new digs. The mother phones Zayn to thank him for being the best son in the world and we, as 1D fans, are invited to see a supposedly “private” moment between a mother and her son unfolding before our eyes. I am not trying to be cynical but the whole scene reeks of a scripted reality show on E!. We also bear witness to all of the boys “camping in the woods” complete with them trying to put the tents together and make a fire. Oh the hilarity! I’m assuming the point of this scene was to demonstrate how the boys work as a “team” and are all “best friends” despite the fact that they were thrown together by Simon Cowell and The X Factor. I could have done without the “regular guys in the wilderness” set up and would have gladly settled for just a regular conversation on their tour bus or backstage at one of their shows. While this film is catering to a very specific audience (i.e. not people my age), it still fun and entertaining to watch. If there is one thing I can say for One Direction without zero hesitation is that they are all extremely charismatic and quite talented. No really, two members in particular have quite exceptional voices.
I have 2 favourite moments from this film:
1) When my plus one for the evening turned to me and said “I’m really starting to like these guys”. (Not necessarily musically, but as individuals).
2) During the credits, they showed “funny” scenes from what appeared to be 1D’s next video. I wanted to retrieve my cell phone from security (an anti-piracy measure) and my plus one said to me “Uh… you go ahead… I wanna watch this”. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?
Will I ever purchase a One Direction album? No. Will I ever go to a One Direction concert? Not unless it is free and no one will know that I went. Will I shut off the radio when their music comes comes on? Depends on the song. Will I be less judgemental about how hard working these guys are or how hard working any of these “overnight” successes are? Most definitely.
One Direction: This is Us opens nation wide August 30th.