MANILA, Philippines—There is a moment of sociological interest in “One Direction: This is Us,” a just-out documentary on the British-Irish vocal group nicknamed 1D, who are the latest in a long line of musical gangs to have taken the world by storm.
In said moment, Niall Horan, arguably the 5-boy band’s goofiest member, disguises himself as a scruffy, grumpy security man prior to a One Direction concert, chatting up some unsuspecting fans, then going backstage shortly before performing before the same fans and thousands more.
The episode confirms what one 1D member says elsewhere in the movie, that their countless adulating followers would not be loving them “if not for this,” if not for their being in One Direction.
“Us” and them
One Direction fans do get much credit in “This is Us.”
This is not just in the abundance of footage showing long and tight shots on screaming admirers of different nationalities, but also in how the fans themselves are given due recognition for having catapulted Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, and Louis Tomlinson from their loss in the singing-competition TV show, “The X Factor,” into the newest pop-culture phenomenon.
While “This is Us” can easily be dismissed as fans-only fodder, non-fans, such as parents who opt to escort their brood’s shrieking teenyboppers, will not find the movie a complete waste of time.
Credit for this goes largely to hit documentary director Morgan Spurlock, who moves things at a commendable zip and gets to showcase the “lads’” wit or at least errant childishness.
(Spurlock followers would note that the American filmmaker does not attempt a case study on what it’s like to listen to One Direction albums for 30 days in a row, the way he stuck to McDonald’s meals for a month for his 2004 debut docu, “Super Size Me.”)
The movie’s aural and visual core – its, shall we say, first dimension – is the group’s big concert earlier this year at London’s the O2 Arena, and Spurlock and crew wisely keep things brisk by excising any of that big gig’s dead air and keeping the featured concert outtakes lean.
Shown alternating with the band’s onstage scenes is a variety of off-stage footage, such as inevitable moments detailing the quintet’s fan-fueled rise from obscurity and 1D mania across countries, which has been dubbed as the latest “British invasion.”
(One Direction, unlike original Brit invaders The Beatles, are no full-fledged singer-songwriters, though – at least not yet.)
Rounding out the whole thing is the array of personal-background detail, including their respective families, individual working-class backgrounds, foreseeable futures and how, as Horan puts it, “we’re normal people doing this abnormal job.”
Fame through femmes
That said, One Direction themselves indeed make up just half of the “This is Us” equation, as the boys’ fans, numerous as they are, get a good chunk of screen time too.
Seeing the multitudes under 1D’s spell can even incite a naïve thought: What if this mania were all it took to attain world peace?
Even the film’s being in 3D is pro-fans, apart from being a corporate, money-raking strategy for its producers.
That in-your-face format enhances the fans’ viewing experience, making admirers feel that Styles, et al. are singing and looking straight at them.
Whatever potential for ponderous thought “This is Us” has in store is pretty much limited to the lads envisioning how odd their lives are now and how less so their future years could be.
Never are these still-teen pretty boys shown musing about, say, the weirdness (unsurprising as it may be) of having a mostly female fandom.
Still, seen beyond its basic construct of being a time capsule for One Direction and its worldwide fan base, “This is Us” deserves points for sneaking in an inspirational thought along the way.
As one member puts it (I do not remember who, given the distraction that are the sighs of near-swooning seatmates), had the individual members of One Direction not pushed themselves to audition on “The X Factor,” they would not at all be in 1D – an ongoing career gig that, despite its rigors, they claim to prefer to doing anything else.
This is the full trailer for ‘One Direction: This is Us’:
The use of snippets of The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” and The Undertones’ “Teenage Kicks” in One Direction songs have incited gnashing of teeth among punk aficionados yet, who knows, can inspire eventual maturing of tastes among 1D fans.
Conversely, “This is Us,” for all its assumed triviality, just might inspire a viewer or two to start into her own big thing and, who knows, grow from idolizer to idol. – Rappler.com
‘One Direction: This is Us,’ rated G by the MTRCB, is showing in 3D in theaters nationwide.