We still have another popstar documentary to watch this year: “Justin Bieber: Our World”. The past couple of years have seen a steady stream of these films presenting an inside look at the lives of our favorite stars. Since the start of 2020, we’ve had “Miss Americana” by Taylor Swift (January 2020), “Blackpink: Light Up the Sky” (October 2020), “Shawn Mendes: In Wonder” (November 2020), “Ariana Grande: Excuse Me, I Love You “(December 2020) and” Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry “(February 2021).
Coming to us now in October 2021, Bieber’s film focuses on the month of preparation leading up to his New Years Eve concert in December 2020. Located in Beverly Hills, Calif., The concert had a live audience of 240 people watching from the balconies of the Beverly Hilton Hotel. But the primary audience would be online, as Bieber has partnered with T-Mobile to live stream the concert worldwide for just $ 25 (or free for T-Mobile customers).
The majority of the 94-minute documentary consists of concert footage, which is a bit of a letdown for those expecting the more intimate perspective that fueled “Miss Americana” and “The World’s a Little Blurry”. Bieber has already taken a closer look at audiences through his YouTube docuseries, “Justin Bieber: Seasons” (January 2020), but regardless, the relatively impersonal nature of this film is likely to put off most viewers. Watching a concert recording can be a bit boring.
Director Michael D. Ratner (“Justin Bieber: Seasons”) attempts to weave behind-the-scenes imagery throughout the film to keep things interesting, but you have to sit down for the first 7 minutes of concert footage to access it. (And it was only long enough for my movie mate to fall asleep soundly.) Towards the end of the film, the concert pieces become much more interesting, because at this point the viewer knows all the groundwork that went into the performance and is emotionally invested in the success of the show. But until the second half, the first 30 minutes are a drag.
For the devoted Bieber fan who is willing to stick with it, “Justin Bieber: Our World” is a fun time. It’s his first gig since 2017, which is a big deal. Everyone involved is excited to be back on stage, especially in 2020 when most of the performers were out of work. And the production of the concert is quite impressive: they have fireworks, drones and dramatic light shows, all perfectly in sync with the music. The choreography is really fun to watch, and it’s intriguing to see everything that goes into making a concert – especially the stressful hiccups that occur along the way, as the lead choreographer tested positive for COVID-19, a thunderstorm pushing back construction and the overloaded livestream crashed, delaying the start time by 45 minutes.
But the real gems of the film are the subtle nods to Bieber’s personal growth over the past 10 years in the limelight. The title of the documentary itself is a nod to his debut album in 2009, “My World”, which was so successful that he released “My World 2.0” the following year. The simple change from “my” to “our” hints at how Bieber has become a more conscientious person. The documentary features various key members of Bieber’s team who have worked with him throughout his career, and Lauren Walters’ perspective (his guardrail), in particular, highlights Bieber’s growth in as a leader.
There are also quite a few heartfelt moments in the second half of the film. In the concert itself, Bieber thanks his wife, Hailey, for the song “Holy,” and the two take a lovely morning walk on the day of the concert. There are footage of the couple playing with Bieber’s siblings in a park; the emphasis on family reflects the singer’s newfound stability and maturity.
One of the last songs from the concert is “Lonely,” a heart-wrenching tune that reflects Bieber’s struggles as he grew up under the world’s microscope. The camera pans to a wide shot of the audience, with Bieber standing alone as one small figure. It’s a final nod to his past, and this song, along with this documentary, seems to mark the start of a new era for Justin Bieber. It puts a closure on former Justin Bieber and sets the stage for the future with a note of hope and excitement.
While this isn’t groundbreaking, fans will find in “Justin Bieber: Our World” a fun and quite interesting look into the making of the New Year’s Eve concert – as well as meaningful reflection as Bieber begins a new chapter of his life.
Daily Arts Contributor Pauline Kim can be contacted at [email protected]