Rock Docs

film 2 of 5

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never

Film Review by Dean Duncan Apr 17, 2014

The following was written right after this film came out. What a difference a few years can make! Still, let’s stand by the following sentiments. Are we thinking Lindsay Lohan, or Miley Cyrus? How about Judy Garland?! They’re all just kids! Celebrity, it would seem, is a scourge. Its often obnoxious manifestations may blind us to the fact that these youngsters are getting chewed up and spat out. We could always wish them well, and be grateful for our own obscurity! There but for the grace…

… May I state that when young JB starts out he oversings like crazy? Still, it’s very clear that this is a remarkably talented boy. More, better, he appears to be a remarkably nice one, too. That’s not for sure though, since this production is so calculated and manufactured and processed that it’s almost painful. The traditional documentary person finds himself in the midst of an interesting dilemma. Is this just a cynical/oblivious promotion, a mere unattributed bit of manufacturing? Or is something bigger and more dire going on?

Everyone knows: technology is past ubiquitous, and social media, together with the various devices that render it, seems to be changing the very nature of human development. Narcissism used to be a way station on the way to emotional and moral maturity. If some people never quite left it then there was still the understanding that they should, and still could. But now people take pictures of themselves and talk about themselves and exhibit themselves unto eternity, or else they despise themselves while obsessing over the manufactured image of some distant desired object. In other words, this movie.

It’s not like any of that is exactly new, but the volume and concentration are altogether new to the point of being incalculable. As for good old, honest, hard-headed documentary, it might just be at a crossroads, or even at the end of the road. Have the old rules or warnings—avoiding the camera game, or incorporating the apparatus in order to properly contextualize tainted behavior—simply disappeared? That violin girl bit is cool to the point of being lovely, but you have the strong feeling that you can’t trust these guys. (Some of that ticket granting, ticket upgrade footage is quite touching—people are so ardent and vulnerable!  But it’s more of the same thing, more of the same problem. The Bieber camp is somewhat kind, in the midst of its incredible self-serving. Which thing prevails?)  Also, is anyone else suspicious of this transparently self-serving manager, who produced the film and made himself the secret hero thereof?