One Direction: This is Us is Safe, Sincere, Staged
- Friday, August 30, 2013
Release Date: August 30, 2013
Rating: PG (for mild language)
Genre: Live Concert/Documentary
Run Time: 92 min.
Director: Morgan Spurlock
Starring: Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson
Before watching This Is Us with a passionate crowd of pre-teen girls (and trust me, "passionate" is a serious understatement), I knew exactly three things about One Direction—they hailed from the United Kingdom, one of them dated Taylor Swift before their relationship fizzled in spectacular fashion, and yes, 1D basically replaced Justin Bieber as the object of many young girls' affections.
Aside from that, I was basically a blank slate. Being a pop culture junkie, however, seeing what all the fuss was about through the lens of Super Size Me documentarian Morgan Spurlock was an intriguing prospect. Could the same guy who famously lived on nothing but McDonald’s fast food for a month make an equally memorable statement about pop music’s reigning boy band?
Well, yes and no.
Following in the grand tradition of Katy Perry’s Part of Me, the Biebs’ Never Say Never and Jonas Brothers: 3D Concert Experience, a large chunk of This is Us reads more like shameless propaganda than an actual film. From interviews with wildly enthusiastic fans that say very little beyond how much they loooove the guys to a badly staged bonding ritual where the five One Directioners are sitting around a campfire in the middle of nowhere and awkwardly musing about what their lives might be like out of the spotlight, This Is Us occasionally suffers from that stale, just-for-fans feeling.
On the other hand, there are moments where This Is Us is several notches above your standard-issue pop-doc. When a group of young guys are as famous as they are, it’s often easy to forget they're still somebody’s sons.
Not surprisingly, there is a significant downside to this glamorous but nomadic living, and it doesn’t play out in predictable sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll fashion here. Instead, the viewer experiences the flip side of fame from the perspective of the parents.
No doubt, the 1D parents are clearly proud of what their sons have accomplished, but in many ways, it’s a strange reality that's often difficult to relate to. While one mother is understandably emotional about receiving a beautiful new home as a gift from her young son, a gesture he apparently dreamed of long before becoming a pop star, another mom regularly greets the cardboard cutout of her son, a reminder that he's far away and not coming home anytime soon.
For those not already familiar with One Direction’s rise to fame, This Is Us also provides insight into the guys' surprisingly humble beginnings before Simon Cowell saw their collective potential on The X Factor UK. Largely from working class communities, one would assume that One Direction would be happy to divorce themselves from what could've been a blue-collar existence. But as a rare day off reveals, the guys clearly seem happy to reconnect with their past, not to mention their non-musical interests such as graffiti art for Zayn Malik or a gig at the local bakery for Harry Styles.
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