One Direction: This is Us, a Surprising Review


I am a middle-aged mother of 2 tweenage daughters. Today I found myself in the movie theatre with my youngest (aged 10, big 1D fan) and her 2 best friends watching the One Direction (1D) film This is Us in 2D. My husband was in the neighbouring theatre with our 12 year old (not a 1D fan) and her friend watching The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.  My husband and I chuckled prior to entering our respective torture chambers as we pondered who had the worse fate.

Until that point, I had been aware, yet indifferent to 1D music. I came of age during an era of relative boy band void. When I was the target age of such groups, Donny Osmond and Michael Jackson were spreading their wings. Their music did not speak to me and by the time I was past it, in high school, I was into the New Wave (alternative stuff like The Stranglers, The Smiths, The Waterboys) and discovering classic rock (The Rolling Stones, The Doors). I guess Duran Duran was the closest thing, but not quite and I was never a huge fan of them any way. Regardless, I thought that I, a middle aged, au courant, professional career woman, music lover (Vampire Weekend, Muse, fun! The Killers) was immune to the boy band phenomenon. Then I saw this film.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the film (whereas my poor husband found himself in a theatre instinctively reaching for a nonexistent remote control desperately seeking a Fast Forward option). This film was very fun. It seemed a wholesome depiction of 5 extremely talented singers, some who also play instruments. The music was catchy; the lyrics formulaic yet there were awesome covers of Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag” and Blondie’s “One Way or Another” in addition to familiar big hits. It wasn’t long (with the patient guidance of my daughter) before I could identify each member of the group by name and I found myself swaying in my seat with a goofy grin on my face. Yes, I admit it, I was having a good time in a practically empty theatre with a few young girls who were thrilled to be there.

This film was well directed (Morgan Spurlock) and creatively edited to provide a glimpse at 5 charming and handsome young men (Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson) from working class backgrounds, on a concert tour. Concert footage was interwoven with scenes of back stage antics, fan testimonials, interviews with the lads’ parents and occassional public outings where we witnessed their harassment by hysterical young girls. They appeared down-to-earth and rather appreciative of their current success. Wisely (or calculatedly) they never failed to credit the fans. That they love and miss their respective families could not be disputed. Indeed, many of their parents seem shocked at how their sons had been catapulted to fame. There was a palpable sense of loss when we watched the parents express their bewilderment.

The film was surprisingly aware at how unlikely this level of fandemonium could be sustained. I was particularly impressed by their self awareness, as they expressed misgivings about finding life partners who wouldn’t be influenced by their fame. One of my biggest complaints about this film was how the producers made repeated comparisons to Beatlemania. Seriously! How can one even discuss 1D’s recent rise to global popularity, in the internet era with that of the Beatles? Arguably the Fab Four remain one of the most talented song-writing teams and successful rock/pop band ever. 1D is unabashedly a manufactured pop band with a team of talented musicians, song-writers and producers behind 5 fresh and surprisingly heavily tattooed lads. The team knows how to craft songs that tug at prepubescent heart-strings and the lads deliver. “Are all songs about love ?” my daughter asked me. “Most of the popular ones are.” was all I could say. And the 1D lads are oh so young (19-21 years old) and seemingly happy to be heavily managed. It is laughable when they suggested that each individual member of the group was integral to the groups success. As if there wasn’t another talented handsome young U.K. singer with mediocre dance moves that young girls would swoon over, sigh. But they too will get older and some of the lads will becaome men who may even decide that they are tired of being told what to do. That is if the fickle tween market doesn’t decide for them. And then what?

But for now, they are a fun loving group of talented pranksters who don’t seem to take themselves too seriously. I hope they avoid the usual trappings of young fame (drugs, mismanaged funds) and find continued success a la Justin Timberlake.  Only time will reveal the longevity of this band. You never know, they might beat the odds.

This film was made for fans, yet I, the casual viewer was entertained. It didn’t delve too much about their early life beyond being discovered as teens and brought together during their participation in The X Factor. But for those of us who could not manage to see them live (I lack the fortitude to navigate the chaos required to attend a live show with my daughter), this is a pretty good alternative. Call me pleasantly surprised.


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