“They don’t know me, but they love me,” says one dewy-eyed One Direction fan, and that says it all.
This 3D documentary and concert film gives us a peek at the moment in time when One Direction, a group of five British teenagers, reigned as the number one musical act in the world. As inevitable a part of early adolescence as cliques and braces is the transitional object known as the teen idol. Almost a hundred years ago, it was Rudolph Valentino. Then there was Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, the Monkees, Bobby Sherman, David Cassidy, Shaun Cassidy, the Backstreet Boys. The girls move on, but those ties are strong. Take a look at last Sunday’s Twitter feed when Justin Timberlake’s Video Vanguard performance included a reunion with N’Sync. While there have been notable individual teen idols, the boy band has the advantage of giving fans a range of options. All of them are always safely, well, let’s just say they don’t have to shave very often. There’s usually a cute one and a smart one and a (comparatively) rebellious one. So whole slumber parties can debate the merits of individual members but unite in their shared passion, and each girl can feel that she is expressing her sense of independence and still-evolving personal taste in her selection of a favorite. (I’m a Paul girl, myself.) Teen idols are a mostly harmless transition object for young girls as they rehearse some of their experience of attachment with someone who is safely far away.
After an “aw”-inducing introduction with some home movie footage of the five members of One Direction, as they tell us in voice overs about their early childhood (we’re talking seven to ten years ago in most cases) dreams of stardom. And then we see the Cinderella story of how they got started. They never met before they were contestants on the British talent competition show, “The X Factor.” They all lost competing as individuals. (Does anyone remember who beat them?) But then star-maker Simon Cowell saw something in the long line of runners-up. He pointed: you, you, you, you, you. He told them to get together and come back as a group. They laugh in recollecting that their first conversation was not about the music or the performance but about what they should wear.
What they had, in addition to nice, tuneful voices, was good attitudes and great chemistry. Over and over, they tell us how much fun they have with each other and how what keeps them going through all the work and pressure of the tour is that they’re in it with their best mates. They insist that they’re not like other boy bands because they’re “cooler.” Also, they are not good dancers and they don’t dress alike.
Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me,” “Pom Presents the Greatest Movie Ever Sold”) directed, so you might expect some exploration of the merchandising behind this “pre-fab five,” who seem like nice, talented kids, but who are the avatars of a marketing machine. When a fan says, “They say what we want to hear and no one says to us,” those of us outside of the fangirl demographic would like to know something about the genius who thought One Direction should sing about how it is not knowing she is beautiful is what makes a girl beautiful. We’d like to know more about how the age of social media make these boys stars before they had put out a single record. But this is not that movie. And it is certainly not Alun Owen’s/Richard Lester’s “Hard Day’s Night,” a masterpiece completely separate from the charm and hooky tunes of the Beatles in its innovative structure and documentary-like intimacy. This is just a love letter to the fans from five boys who know how lucky they are and like to show off for the camera.
Parents should know that the movie includes some strong language, some underwear shots, and brief potty humor, but is about as squeaky clean as any documentary about teenaged boys could be.
Family discussion: Which one do you like best and why? What makes them get along so well?
If you like this, try: “Bye Bye Birdie,” an affectionate satire of the teen idol phenomenon