Amy Nicholson and I know our way around a boy band. The LA Weekly film critic and I are grown-ass women, but we’re not above singing along to the Backstreet Boys in my kitchen — and harmonizing. That’s how dorky we are.
So when I saw that the documentary “One Direction: This Is Us” was coming out Aug. 30, I knew we’d have to see it together and have a Movies-With-Friends discussion afterward. Amy (@theamynicholson) and I went to our favorite Koreatown diner, The Pipers, after a recent screening to talk Harry, Zayn and the rest of the lads over carne asada fries, Coors Light (for her) and cabernet (for me). Here are the good bits, luv:
CL: So what did you know about this band beforehand? I knew nothing.
AN: Absolutely nothing. I knew that there was a weird thing with (film producer) Keith Calder where, like, Keith Calder was being stalked by One Direction fans …
CL: So, what, he did not like One Direction and he dared say so publicly?
AN: He was accused of being the brother of a girl who was supposedly dating one of the guys in One Direction, but I don’t know which one. But that was, like, the sum total of what I knew — and I knew that one of the boys in One Direction dated Taylor Swift.
AN: Harry. But I could not have named a single one of their songs.
CL: Yeah, even during the concert I’m listening and thinking, do any of these songs sound familiar to me? And they didn’t, because they’re all essentially interchangeable pop songs. The only songs I knew were the songs they did covers of.
AN: I’d heard that song “You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful” before — I didn’t know it was them — and I hated that song because it’s a song that basically says: “I like you because you don’t have any self-esteem about how pretty you are.” That’s a terrible message.
CL: So did this movie at all make you a fan of these people? Are they endearing? Are they talented?
AN: It’s interesting. Did you see the Justin Beiber documentary?
CL: Yep — I’ve seen them all: The Jonas Brothers and Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus documentaries.
AN: Yeah, and what’s weird is, like, you watch those — especially the Justin Bieber one — you watch that and it’s like, this is a kid who just had musical talent pouring out of his ears. You watch those videos of him drumming at age 2 and you’re, like, aware that this kid had to do this, that he’s a prodigy and you respect him, even though he’s a horrible person. And they do a decent job in the Justin Bieber one of sort of hiding that he’s a horrible person.
CL: Back then, we didn’t know how bad it was.
AN: But this one, they just come across as really likable. How edited do you think it is?
CL: I mean, you very vaguely get the sense of them as humans with original thoughts in their heads and doubts and fears. Given that it was directed by Morgan Spurlock, it is mind-numbingly repetitive. I was really shocked. When I first saw he was directing it, I was like, “Oh, I am now interested in this in a way that I was not before.” And I would say that this does not differ in any way from the overblown infomercials of The Jonas Brothers movie or whatever.
AN: It’s just like: “We couldn’t do this without our fans.” “But you know what? We couldn’t do this without our fans.”
CL: “You know what? We’re just five lads. We’re just mates. We’re just brothers.” They say that about eight times each. We get it.
AN: I like that they’re so deliberately manufactured and they just admit it. I mean, did you spend the whole time trying to figure out who was who? Like, who was the rebel?
CL: Who was the cute one? Who was the strange one? At one point, during one of the rare conversations that they have with each other, Harry and Liam were talking about how Zayn is the mysterious one. So clearly they are cognizant of what their pre-assigned roles are.
AN: There were the two blonde guys I couldn’t tell apart, like, ever.
CL: The one who looks like a young Frank Sinatra is Louis.
AN: OK. Is he the one who wears rolled-up jeans?
CL: (Laughs) Don’t they all wear rolled-up jeans?
AN: I felt so sorry for the blonde Irish one, the kind of punky one.
AN: His uniform is, like, the pants with the low crotch that go to the knees. He’s going to be so embarrassed by that in 10 years.
CL: Well, one of them is wearing an acid-washed jacket. That’s worse. … But we’re grown-ass people — if you were an 11-year-old girl, would you be in love with them? Or would you be in love with one of them? Do you get the allure of them?
AN: I’m a grown-ass woman but I walked out of there in love with Harry. There’s something about him. He’s not even the cute one. The cute one is obviously Zayn.
CL: Zayn has amazing eyes.
AN: Oh my God, Zayn is beautiful.
CL: Harry’s cute. He’s got a young Mick Jagger thing going.
AN: I mean, this felt really sanitized. There’s no way that these five guys who are of legal age — legal drinking age in England — are all sober and not banging groupies left and right. You don’t see them even get close to fans.
CL: And only at one point does Liam lament: “I’m really curious if anyone is ever going to love me for me.” And then Harry at one point says: “I have to admit that I don’t always love it.” That’s the closest that any of them comes to, like, recognizable human emotions, and not just joy or gratitude. So I don’t know that I really learned a whole lot. I learned their names — you didn’t even learn their names!
AN: They don’t seem to have a drive for music, which is weird. You didn’t feel that they had to be singers — it’s kind of, like, they really enjoyed being famous. Especially because they don’t even write their own songs.
CL: Justin Bieber wrote his own songs. Say what you will about him, he wrote: “Baby, baby, baby, oh.”
AN: That’s a lot of syllables. … It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. Which one of them is going to be the one that comes out of the closet? ‘Cause there’s gonna be at least one. Which one is going to be the one that gets the drug problem? I mean, it’s not going to end well. Which one is going to be the one that everyone forgets about?
CL: And which one becomes Justin Timberlake? Because there’s going to be that, too.
AN: I bet Harry.
CL: I was gonna say, it’s gotta be Harry, right?
AN: Although Harry could also be the drug-addict one, too.
CL: That’s true. They’re not mutually exclusive.