It’s no secret that the country’s been overtaken by One Direction mania, and to many, the buzz is overrated. The faces of One Direction (“1D,” for the trendy) can be seen everywhere from pencils to backpacks to bed sheets, but the latest professional output from the boy band dynasty is their documentary movie, aptly titled “One Direction: This Is Us.”
I’ll be the first to admit: One Direction fever infected me back in my innocent, fangirl-free days when they were five guys (Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson, Liam Payne, and Zayn Malik) brought together by Simon Cowell to form a competing group on “The X Factor UK,” so seeing this movie was already a high priority. (I’ve actually seen it a total of three times. Y’know, for, um different reasons. Journalism. Cough.)
My first time through the film was with my best friend and fellow Directioner, but the second time was more of a test: we went with a friend who wasn’t so crazy about the idea of 1D. When we walked in, we found that we were the only people in the theater—naturally, commentary became a must. I think the movie’s infectious madness won her over (you’ve got to laugh and sing out loud), but I also found that the film had scenes that truly humanized the band as a group of normal guys growing up publicly in an abnormal situation.
Near the beginning of the film, there’s a montage of news clips taken from footage following 1D’s departure from “The X Factor” (they were voted off), describing their rapid rise to fame. Over a rapid crescendo of clips, a pop culture expert cites, “It’s not unusual. It’s unprecedented,” hinting at the fact that One Direction’s rapid rise to fame rivals the hysteria of even Beatlemania. (Granted, The Beatles lacked the social media that’s so influentially boosted 1D.) It’s still mind-boggling to me how quickly these boys became superstars—and all before the release of their first single. Before “What Makes You Beautiful” was released, there was a question as to whether it would even succeed in America, since the boy band niche had been a ghost town for years. Fortunately, thanks (again) to social media and a massive online fan base, their first song skyrocketed on American radio.
During the scenes interspersed between clips of songs performed live from the O2 Arena in London, director Morgan Spurlock evenly spreads moments throughout the film that give a glimpse at the boys’ lives back home, like having Harry return to the bakery where he worked before “The X Factor” and filming him work there for a day. The movie was crafted to highlight the band’s musical success and foster respect for their startling ascension, but also to portray them as down-to-earth and relatable—and it succeeds.
Claire Staten is a senior English major at the University of Missouri.