Trailer: One Direction: This is Us
A look at Niall, Zayn, Liam, Louis, and Harry's meteoric rise to fame, from their humble hometown beginnings and competing on the X-Factor, to conquering the world and performing at London's famed O2 Arena.PT3M11S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2tlv9 620 349 September 12, 2013
- Music/Musical, Documentary
- Running time
- 92 min
- Morgan Spurlock
- Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan
- OFLC rating
It's a long way to the bottom if you want to make a rock'n'roll film. It's a debased form of documentary, because there is no real independence.
Almost every rock film since A Hard Day's Night in 1964, one of the best, has been at the behest of the band, with the filmmaker working for the management. Despite that, there have been some great ones: D. A. Pennebaker's Don't Look Back about Bob Dylan, or his film about the Rolling Stones, Gimme Shelter; Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz about The Band; Jonathan Demme's Stop Making Sense about Talking Heads; Taylor Hackford's Chuck Berry, Hail! Hail! Rock'n'roll!
The greater the band or artist, and the more freedom given the director, the better the film. Albert Grossman was one of the hardest men in the music business yet Pennebaker was still able to capture a lot about Dylan. Richard Lester's films with the Beatles were highly scripted and unreal but they managed to communicate much about the personalities of the Fab Four.
One Direction. Photo: Rodd Barry
One Direction is one of the biggest bands in the world, not just the biggest boy band. According to their management, they've sold 19 million singles and 10 million albums since they came together in 2010, the brainchild of impresario Simon Cowell. Each of the five young men had auditioned separately for The X Factor. None made it through but Cowell says it took him about 10 minutes to decide to put them together.
He is filmed centre-screen, majestic in an opulent house, the picture of success. As producer of the film, he gets to choose how he is presented and by whom. The director is Morgan Spurlock, who made his name eating too much McDonald's in Super Size Me (2004). Spurlock does a professional job here, with both hands tied behind his back. It's a feature-length commercial for a $50 million product. Their first single went straight to No. 1 in Britain. Their first studio album debuted in the US at No. 1. No other British band has done that. That much money buys a lot of control.
I knew virtually nothing about them before seeing this film. I knew a great deal more by the end, none of it credible. That's the problem with a promo film: it's as trustworthy as any other piece of advertising. The content is rigidly and ruthlessly controlled. There is no smoking, swearing, nor even a cross look between the five boys, each of whom appears with distinctive hairdo at the ready at all times. The reaction shots of their screaming fans are just as controlled: all women, all ages, all smitten. What about girls backstage? Not on your life. We never see a girlfriend, if they're allowed to have them, because that would break every fan's heart. They might sing about doing it all night with you, but they're like The Monkees off stage, only cleaner and cuter.
We learn very little about each boy. An opening montage stresses modest origins in modest towns. The soulful Liam Payne comes from Wolverhampton, dreamy Louis Tomlinson from Doncaster, the princely Zayn Malik from Bradford and tousled Niall Horan from Mullingar in Ireland. And of course, there is Harry Styles from Cheshire, the very model of a boy-band beauty, a kid so attractive that knees buckle and bladders strain.
He's as charismatic as a young Jagger, with a confident voice and a mischievous air. He comes across as a joker and a thinker, aware of the transience of success. In a band where trouble never visits - at least according to the script - Harry is bound to be trouble, but I guess we'll have to wait years to find out. For now, it's all happy lads together, with backstage high jinks and practical jokes, waving to the fans and sleepovers together in hotel rooms or on the bus. Every five minutes, we cut to a new performance, taken from their punishing world tour last year.
This part, at least, is true. These young men work hard. Their concerts are slick and professional but they are generous with their fans, blowing kisses and making eye contact. They're more casual than earlier boy bands; they don't dance in unison and their body language suggests they are the best of friends. It's part of the concept, but it might also be true.
In a way, there is something moving about this, because Spurlock captures them at their peak, before the fall. ''I don't think we'll ever do anything better than this,'' says one. They're huddled around a campfire in the woods in Sweden, all alone (except for the film crew). They talk about whether they'll be mates for life and all agree they will be. It's touching. At least in this film, they'll be ''forever young'', to quote one of their song lyrics borrowed from Mr Dylan.
ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US (IN 2D AND 3D)
Directed by Morgan Spurlock
Rated PG, 92 minutes