One Direction: This is Us reviewed
This is Us is enjoyable without any real substance, which is disappointing because even a one-sided view of their story would be fascinating.PT2M24S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2u1ul 620 349 September 19, 2013
- Music/Musical, Documentary
- Running time
- 92 min
- Morgan Spurlock
- Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan
- OFLC rating
This film is, in its own way, a horror story. It's the tale of five teenage boys from Britain who went to an audition one night and never came home.
They went as individuals hoping to make it the the next round of TV's X-Factor. Instead, they were transformed – thrown together, made over into a boy band, given the name One Direction and launched into extraordinary, worldwide musical success on a juggernaut that shows no obvious signs of slowing down.
For the parents of Zayn, Niall, Louis, Liam and Harry, there is definitely a sense of loss, amidst all the other emotions they express. "He's the only feller in the family, and now he's gone," says Liam's dad, who looks genuinely stricken.
One Direction. Photo: Rodd Barry
Niall and Harry's mum go on an expedition to buy life-size cutouts of their boys – after all, the band is on a round-the-world tour with no end in sight, and there's another lot of stadium gigs announced for 2014. They're not going to be at home much.
One Direction: This Is Us is directed by Morgan Spurlock, of Super Size Me fame, and it's a film for the fans that comes with a few extra neat touches.
He gives us the hype, the hi-jinks, the origins story, the fiendish marketing wizardry of Simon Cowell, and the contrasting personalities of the boys: he pretty much ignores the music, and how their songs are written and produced, and there's nothing about their privates lives beyond family.
Much of it feels staged or contrived, yet at the same time the film feels as if reflects the situation the band members (and their families) see themselves in.
But for the most part, it's a cheerful collage of elements, of concert performances, backstage malarkey, crazy events on the road, surreal moments of fandom, with a bit of an If It's Tuesday This Must Be Belgium feeling, as they head from one city to the next.
Spurlock brings out their differences in various ways. Liam seems to be the most philosophical; he thinks that life for him might be a bit of a backwards Benjamin Button-style situation, in which normal life comes after fame. Harry reckons he's prepared to keep doing what he's doing till he's Keith Richards.
Some moments seem a little forced; like when the cameras record Zayn's mum getting the keys to the house he's bought her and, on the other side of the world, capture him taking her phone call to say how much she loves it.
There are prank scenes that have their revealing moments; for example, those in which Niall disguises himself as a hairy security guard. He looks like a pint-sized Hagrid, and he takes full advantage of his anonymity as he shows fans to their seats; he either feigns ignorance of their names or tells them the band is rubbish. It's playing around with something several of them have discussed: the thought and fear that their celebrity defines them.
Moments of reflection can seem set up; like a camping expedition in the woods in Sweden, in which they're prodded into 'what-if' observations. They're obviously puzzled and a bit confounded by all that's happening to them. Harry admits to not completely enjoying it all the time.
No one talks about the songs. But if there's one thing they are clear about, it's that they're in this strange life together – and the sense of disarming solidarity seems entirely plausible.