I Used to Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story (2018)

I never expected to watch a documentary about boyband super-fans, and certainly not one as well-constructed and structured as this surprise gem. With four well-selected participants and an unabashedly feminine perspective, director Jessica Leski is able to create an overarching narrative for all four, who are there to discuss their respective love for The Beatles, Take That, Backstreet Boys and One Direction. Each are articulate, engaging and sympathetic, and have an easy, unforced rapport with Leski as she interviews them about the genesis of their passionate embrace of their chosen bands, and how their formative years were impacted (both positively and negatively) by their interest. It’s particularly impressive how Leski is able to get each of them to speak candidly to the camera not only about the bands themselves, but also about their lives in general and how these particular passions were filtered through gendered lens. Myself, I’ve never been a boyband kind of guy but I do understand the appeal of super-fandom (I had an entire wall dedicated to Winona Ryder in high school), and it’s interesting how Leski structures the movie’s narrative, with each participants’ overlapping arcs patiently and carefully unfurling. It adds an emotional verisimilitude that’s entirely unexpected, and while it’s a tad overlong, this is a terrific documentary whose impact goes beyond its subject matter.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)

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