Sunday, 12 October 2014

One Direction: Where We Are - The Concert Film (2014) - Movie Review

I don’t hate all boy bands; I myself have a certain affinity for 5ive (Everybody Get Up is a little too catchy for me to ignore) and even some songs by N*SYNC. That said, though, I have ears and a brain that would even scrutinize my baby brothers’ crayon drawings: I know emotional manipulation when I hear it and that is the crux of what every boy band does. They are tools of record companies to exploit feelings of Lisztomania in teenage girls (and some women… and some teenage boys, come to think of it) through songs with lyrics that are vague enough that they could apply to just about any girl listening, and yet specific enough to latch on to some minor part of said girl’s psyche due to basic probability (You drop a brick out of a plane, and it will hit something eventually). It’s almost clinically fascinating to see the effect boy bands can have on people.

Now, what does any of this have to do with what I think of the concert film One Direction: Where We Are? Well, it comes down to the simple matter that, technically, there’s nothing wrong with the movie. The camerawork is good, the stage theatrics work for their target audience and it genuinely gives some of the experience of being at a One Direction concert… at least I presume that this is what one is meant to feel like. Really, it’s just a matter of whether or not you like the music. Given how this is a concert film, this is easily the most ‘no shit, Sherlock’ piece of criticism I will probably ever write.

So, maybe some background on my own movie-going experience will help with this, and give me a bit more to talk about. I saw this on the Coming Soon list at my local cinema about a month earlier, and I was kinda-sorta really not looking forward to it. Luckily, a friend of mine (whom actually is a 1D fan) offered to tag along and help me feel a bit less awkward. A couple more mates decided to come along as well, so we had a group of four guys going to see this movie. We all go to the same class, and we made mention that we were going to do this, because one thing I have learnt very quickly is to abandon all shame. Needless to say, no-one envied the task laid out before us.

Now, going into this, I was expecting the cinema to be packed with adolescent girls who would probably form their own tween mosh pit in front of the screen. I couldn’t have been any further from the truth there: The cinema was mostly empty, save for a few scattered groups of girls and one lone old guy near the front (Not sure why he was there, and I’m very sure that I don’t want to know). My hopes of cheap yucks at the expense of fan girls were dashed. Oh well.

My only true annoyance with the film started before the film even started: For some reason, they decided to prelude the movie with a Q&A session with 1D that is far better suited to being a DVD extra than as anything to be shown in a cinema. It was a bit of a grind to get through, mainly because I could barely make out what they were saying. Not because of the accents, although that wasn’t helping, but because they were constantly talking over each other. I get that they were trying to be more off-the-cuff here, and given how phony my perception of boy bands are this is certainly a good idea, but this honestly felt like it would’ve been improved by pre-written answers. This is one of the few times that I’ll ever say that it would have been better if it was more artificial.

Once the film actually started, I was in a bad disposition due to how long the Q&A went on for, but eventually I got over that. As I said before, their music isn’t my kind of thing so with the exception of Alive, which admittedly is a decent song, I wasn’t getting into the music. I kept picking out how pandering songs like “That’s What Makes You Beautiful” and “One Thing” are. I was paying a lot more attention to the audience, where there are a lot of gems to be found. Aside from the usual giggles over how much they were getting into the concert themselves (Along with the one lone dad who couldn’t have looked more out of place if he was wearing a Where’s Wally costume), there were some other things that definitely caught my attention, for better or for worse. The posters some of them made were a little bizarre, with sayings like “I love you more than pizza” (It was filmed in Milan, Italy, because stereotypes need no context). Although, I will admit, the girl holding up a sign saying “The person behind me can’t see” is the sort of thing I expect out of a proper comedy; kudos to her. There was also a point where pretty much the audience in the upper rows became one big sign that read “We Are 1D Family”, a move so staged for the camera that it was seriously a bit painful to watch. Unless we’re talking some kind of 1D revolution, I highly doubt this kind of planning was by the fans themselves. I could be wrong there, but whatever. Also, during "Story Of My Life", everyone was holding up baby pictures. Of themselves, though, not of the band, which would've made this moment only slightly weirder. Needless to say, I don't get it.

The camera work is decent, getting some great shots of both 1D and the audience, with some good editing to accompany it. However, I really do question whoever it was that thought “guitar-cam” was a good idea. Niall (You know, the one who actually plays an instrument in this so-called ‘band’) had a camera attached to the end of his guitar, and at one point just started using it like a proper camera without playing it. At that point, just hand him a damn camera and be done with it! Aside from that, though, the direction honestly gives the feeling of being there yourself, like any good concert film should do. Whether you’d want to be there is another matter entirely, but that’s hardly the fault of the film.

So, rather than beating this wheezing horse any more, I’ll put it like this: With One Direction’s previous film, This Is Us, it failed because it tried way too hard to make the boys relatable, despite being too manufactured for its own good. This was not helped by the rather uncharacteristic way Morgan Spurlock (Yes, Mr. Super Size Me directed a 1D movie, wrap your head around that one) handled the direction. Here, since it’s just a recording of their concert, that isn’t an issue and you’re left simply with the music itself. If you like the music, by all means, see this movie. I won’t begrudge you for liking it, since two of the guys I went with came out liking the film (One of them didn’t, and I apologized profusely for bringing him to it, but that’s neither here or there). Otherwise, it goes without saying: Don’t bother with it. Personally, I just thought it was meh.

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