The young men of the boy band One Direction like playing with their fame. Throughout their Morgan Spurlock-directed 3D concert movie/behind-the-scenes doc, One Direction: This Is Us, we see them conducting the applause they receive as though the crowds of adoring fans are instruments. They run to and from ledges of buildings their admirers have gathered around, manipulating the roar of adulation. They use hand signals to amplify and decrease the screams and squeals. At one point, one member is being interviewed alone about how great his fans are. As evidence, he gets up from his chair and walks a few yards to the window behind him that he stands in front of and throws open, unleashing an appreciative sonic boom.
Where One Direction's pop-star peers make pseudo-philosophical musings about the nature of fame (see Lady Gaga's empty single "Applause")—or simply fret about it—the guys of One Direction are just having fun. Fame's a toy fit for a boy, and this group has five. Their names are Blonde Spice (Niall Horan), Bland Spice (Louis Tomlinson), Cute Spice (Liam Payne), Taylor Swift's Ex Spice (Harry Styles), and Zayn Spice (Zayn Malik).
The amused, borderline-mocking attitude with which this group of Irish and Brits approach their popularity runs through their brand. Early on in the film, we see them practicing with their choreographer, who informs the camera, "they hate dancing with a passion." Describing their approach to moving onstage, Malik says, "We take the piss out of dance moves." Indeed, during the dozen or so concert performances included in the movie, we see the guys mostly just sauntering onstage, sometimes individually mimicking the stylized moves boy bands of the past have primed us to expect, but mostly just goofing off. The guys of One Direction, who were assembled on the U.K. singing competition The X Factor, aren't polished. Or maybe they're extremely polished at looking unpolished.
Again and again, their public image tells us that they're dudes. Pretty, scrawny, nonthreatening dudes, but dudes all the same. More and more, modern masculinity amounts to an extreme ease with one's self and his surroundings. This means not taking anything too seriously (especially one's manliness). One Direction may be the most masculine group to ever congregate onstage and competently croon sensitive, guitar-riffy bubblegum pop for girls.
They drive golf-carts around backstage just minutes before they're supposed to go and sing in front of thousands of people. Their pre-show ritual is a sports-team chant as opposed to a solemn prayer. They openly discuss the fact that they are most likely living in their collective professional peak, that one day One Direction will be a thing of the past, along with this enormous popularity. How much of this is calculated (and thus self-defeating) is anyone's guess, but This Is Us does a great job of portraying these five blokes as endearing down-to-earth normal guys on the ride of their life. Styles bristles over being described as "famous," as it's a word that "gives you no substance." I've never heard such a succinct refutation of celebrity values from an actual celebrity, especially one who isn't yet 20.
At one point during a break on the tour that the film chronicles (which took place earlier this year), we watch the boys go back to their roots. Styles joins the older women behind the counter of the bakery he worked at before going on The X Factor—they all still love him. This expressed ability to fold right back into a normal existence unfazed by fame is an extremely attractive prospect given the absurd degree with which our culture regards celebrity. The illusion of One Direction is just as seductive as the group's creative output.
Much is missing from the This Is Us, which was co-produced by Simon Cowell, who signed the group to his label. There is no mention of sex or drugs or (famous) girlfriends. The rawest scene involves a debate over who just farted. From what we see, there is never any external conflict amongst the guys, and they're more than happy to sing whatever is put in front of them. The toll this lifestyle of nonstop mobs takes on the guys' individuality is never much explored, just sort of vaguely hinted at about three quarters of the way through the movie.
The group's trademark homoeroticism is also largely missing from the movie, save one feigned kissing attempt, a pantsing, and lots of shirtlessness. Horan loves to record in the nude. Styles enters a studio booth and notes, "Smells like men in here. Smells like a mixture of boy and men." That's about as titillating as it gets, if you're into straight-on-straight action.
One day, one or more members of One Direction will write a book or otherwise tell their stories and they'll be juicier, and, if the off-the-cuff cleverness of just about all of the members is any indication, deeper than This Is Us. But I won't be surprised if the tell-alls also include a lot of what's here. This kind of charisma and amusement is a hard thing to fake.
And in conclusion, Liam Payne is soooooooo dreamy and I swooned every time he was on screen!!! I love him and I know he loves me even if he doesn't know it.