One Direction: This is Us is good fun for a music documentary, but that’s about it. It’s a star-vehicle that caters to the fans of the band, which was born in England and now has fans stemming from all across the country. We’re told early on that even The Beatles, one of the most successful, all-male bands of all time, didn’t generate the fans, the global status, and the transatlantic success of One Direction. This fact alone warrants a documentary.
The concert film, for me, finds itself sandwiched between the lesser but somewhat favorable Justin Bieber: Never Say Never and the surprisingly heartfelt, poignant documentary Katy Perry: Part of Me. It provides an enjoyable level of excitement, with its 3D special effects and crisp concert footage, but lacks in the department of trying to make these boys their own unique people rather than just interchangeable pop figures in one of the biggest boy bands of the 2010’s.
The film chronicles the five members of One Direction, named Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, and Louis Tomlinson, who all performed solo auditions on Simon Cowell’s X Factor program in the UK in 2010. After performing individually, Simon Cowell — who was deeply impressed by their work and serves as one of the film’s executive producers — offered to mentor the boys if they all chose to form one complete band. They did and the rest is history. They formed “One Direction,” and gained more fame and stardom by the time they were done with The X Factor and hadn’t even released an album than some big artists who have released several albums over the course of their long careers. The film includes extensive concert footage, along with compilations of their fans from all different countries and the fun they have just being kids in the limelight.
It’s clear that these boys dearly appreciate the fame and attention they receive, and they have yet to become selfish and consumed by the money. This is what makes This is Us such a watchable, interesting endeavor, as the boys are grateful and do not possess the notions of many young singers to challenge norms and tread the line of acceptability. They just want to make enjoyable music for their fans and put on a great show, and it’s hard to criticize that fact.
A great scene comes early in the film, where Niall is in a highrise building and tells the camera, “I’ll prove we have the best fans in the world.” He gets up and walks over to the window, hopes it a bit, and stick just his head and right arm out the window to which an audience (likely of over a thousand teen girls) screams and absolutely cries out to him. After about twenty seconds of teasing, Niall shuts the window and simply states, “proof.”
The film was directed by Morgan Spurlock, who has gone from eating McDonald’s for thirty days, trying to hunt down Osama Bin Laden, examining the nature of advertising in film, capturing the beautiful eccentrics who visit San Diego Comic-Con, to now profiling one of the biggest bands of the new decade. With every sequence, whether it be showing the fans of the boys or capturing their concert through every unique camera angle, Spurlock has evident admiration for these boys, who have made sacrifices indeed, but have also chosen to generously give back to their family, friends, and to charities all across the world. Consider this heavily since they’re in their late teens, early twenties, when many of us are at our most selfish times.
Combined with the 3D camerawork, which is occasionally amusing but mostly unnecessary, One Direction: This is Us is simple entertainment that works on the level of pleasing a fanbase while mildly invigorating an onlooker to the success of the band. Something tells me this won’t be the last movie about this band, as I expect (and certainly hope) one in later years will document the boys individually and give more personality to them. As of now, I couldn’t tell you which one was Zayn or which one was Louis.
Review by Steve Pulaski, Special to Influx Magazine