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one-direction-this-is-us-movieReleased: 2013

Genre: Documentary, Music

Directed by: Morgan Spurlock

Starring: Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson

There are no flies on the wall in this Morgan Spurlock directed One Direction movie. In fact, there’s not very much at all. Following the boy band as they embark on their world tour, the film dips in and out of interviews with relatives, production crew and the heartthrobs themselves as they cast their spell over increasingly hysterical fans.

While it’s billed as an exclusive look at the band, in actuality it’s little more than a passing glance. From the off, Spurlock never gets passed the X Factor moments and it’s a real shame because this implies that that’s all there is. In promotional interviews it was continuously emphasized that the crew had access all areas but that seems unlikely and the film evokes a sense that the band were Made in Chelsea with a series of increasingly contrived scenes.

One such scene shows a tranquilized Harry Styles doing his best to play the dismissive rock star lothario and it’s hard to believe there’s anything more about him. Another scene sees Zayn’s mother phones to thank him for the house he has a bought them in an oddly dismissive and uncomfortably rehearsed conversation. Spurlock barely scratches the surface of these oddities and he seems happy to let us embrace the caricatures.

One Direction seem like a sanitized version of the rolling stone vagabonds the tabloids are desperate for us to believe in. Whilst a satisfactory depiction for fans, it’s a squandered opportunity – a by-the-numbers karaoke annual instead of an insightful, revelatory documentary.

In one surreal scene, the quintet sing along with hauntingly cartoonish girls in Japan. The atmosphere is uncomfortable and for a moment, because of the synchronicity of the singing, the film transcends the screen in some odd, rhythmic way. There’s that faint subtle hint of self-awareness, some fearless parody that’s immediately drowned in the false bravado of the concert moments. In sanding off every jagged edge, the film becomes a feature length commercial and even a bizarre cameo by a blissfully unaware Martin Scorsese can only remind you of a wasted opportunity.

Spurlock’s style seems at odds with itself throughout. There’s something unsettling about the way subjects are framed, some ominous presence given to them. Simon Cowell, posed with a great loom in the centre of the frame exacts his version of the One Direction bible, yet Spurlock never allows for that moment of doubt or for the most glorious, accidental moment where the un-Hollywood-ized truth might slip through.

Opposite this the music scenes seem somewhat arbitrary. Spurlock dips in and out of performances without any real motivation and the songs only seem included in order to sell CDs. The film admittedly does serve the purpose of alluring its niche audience – the shrieking fan girls that have their own parts in the film, crying hysterically at each successive line in the songs. The boy band also seem extremely likable and its hard not to be entertained by their boyish antics even though there’s the overwhelming feeling of the shadow of A Hard Day’s Night looming both over the audience and over Morgan Spurlock.

The pseudo-documentary then, maintains an odd distance while proclaiming a profound intimacy, somehow existing as an extended X Factor VT. It’s a neatly packaged piece of merchandise that won’t reveal anything about the band the entire world didn’t already know.

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