My kids like Justin Bieber, but they’re still too young (6,7 and 2) to be fully into music or pop icons. I’ve heard his songs on the radio and a couple of them are even on my Ipod. I’m no huge fan either, but I’m intrigued by the mania and by his persona.
Given the above, I did not expect Never Say Never to completely blow me away. Much to the embarassed chagrin of my kids, I was crying, screaming and cheering throughout the film.
While I knew a little about the rags-to-riches story of little JB and his YouTube videos, what I didn’t know was the details. His mom was a teenage single mom who lived with her parents. The grandparents played a large role in raising Justin. He’s immensely talented; from the age of 3, he could pick up any instrument and intuitively start playing. He’s diligent and hard-working, toiling away for hours on his performance while other boys his age incessantly play video games.
The emotional hit, however, is hard to describe. I thought about why the film provoked such a response in me and it came down to this: As a parent, I saw the child in him. The flush in his cheek reminded me of my son. When he fell sick on tour and his mother nurtured him, it reminded me of my children. He’s a child, who, because of his wicked talent, has been thrown into this crazy, Alice-in-Wonderland-esque world of celebrity.
The film focused on the network of people around Justin, whose primary roles are to protect him and give him as normal a life as possible. Scooter Braun, the guy who “discovered” him seems like a decent person who genuinely cares for Justin. The movie highlights the different aspects of Justin’s life: the fans, the music, his rise to fame, his hometown Canadian roots, his family, his commitment to the music and his hair! The film culminates in an explosive, sold-out performance at Madison Square Gardens; it is truly mind-blowing.
I also loved the Michael Jackson film, This is It, for some of the same reasons: that film focused more on MJ’s talent than on the weird persona. Throughout Never Say Never, there is a strong comparative subtext between the two artists (MJ is only mentioned once in a tangential way). Without being overtly verbalized, it appears that Justin’s entourage shares a collective desire to shield him from the dark underbelly and consequences of childhood fame.