In defiance of all odds, Justin Bieber: Always Believing is a biography of Justin Bieber (who'd have thunk it?). Now, before we go any further, there are a few things that can be gathered immediately. You can tell that the biography is unauthorized because it says so in small print right on the cover. You can also tell that is was hastily slapped together because the folks behind it didn't take the extra nanosecond required to call it Justin Bieber: Always Beliebing. Finally, you can tell that it is completely and utterly unnecessary because it exists in a world where an authorized documentary / concert film dedicated to Bieber (Never Say Never) came out two years ago.
I know what you're thinking. Of course, a dweeby dude in his early 30s can't appreciate the talent that Bieber possesses. A doughy pile of meat, hair and failed dreams couldn't possibly know what it's like to have a fan base so rabid, that it just wants to consume, digest and poop out any shred of information even tangentially related to the object of their affection. Well, I have a few things to say about that. Firstly, that's kind of mean (doughy? big-boned maybe). Secondly, I do in fact appreciate the talent that Bieber has. I may not be in his target demographic (women younger than 20 as the film reminds us numerous times) but that doesn't mean I'm immune to ear-worms on the radio. I've never had full-blown Bieber Fever but a few of his songs have certainly given me Bieber Sweats. The dubsteppy As Long As You Love Me is all kinds of right and it doesn't hurt that the video for said song shows Bieber taking a Michael Madsen beating like a champ.
All that to say this: I am not a hater. I approached this biography with an open mind and came away completely underwhelmed. I should have known what I was in for when a sequence featuring an animated talk show host kicked off the whole shebang. The clip is silly, shoddy and superfluous. It also seems to be where most of the film's meager budget got spent. What follows is roughly an hour of interviews featuring folks in and around the music publicity biz. With a collection of on-air personalities, music critics, celebrity columnists and publicists on hand, you might expect to learn something interesting about Bieber. Well, you'd be wrong.
Instead of anything remotely insightful about Bieber's upbringing or his place in the challenging musical industry, we get inane chatter about his changing hairstyles and his on-off-on-off-(kill me now) relationship with Selena Gomez. To add the illusion of substance, we also get recycled talking points about him being discovered on YouTube, how his musical style has evolved with his fans and how if he tries really, really hard and doesn't screw anything up, he could grow up to be Justin Timberlake or even (fingers crossed) his mentor, Usher. Speaking of Usher, there is an extended segment in the middle that is dedicated to his relationship with Bieber. Between this and repeatedly cutting back to a rambling speech by Usher at an awards ceremony, I started to think that the film was going to have a twist ending. Here I thought I was watching Justin Bieber's story when in fact it had been Raymond Usher, Esq.'s tale all along (dun dun DUN!).
All snark aside, Always Believing is clearly a shameless ploy meant to cash in on Justin Bieber's rise to stardom. The lack of access to Bieber's inner circle or any new footage is made painfully apparent when the biography starts showing the exact same shots over and over (and over) again (no, slightly different angles don't count). At some point, the filmmakers even start recycling their own interview footage with no greater purpose than to shove this film over the hour mark (it claims a run time of 70 minutes but that includes one of the slowest end credit crawls that I've ever seen).
The most damning thing I can say about this ‘biography' is that it is slathered in an icky coating of superficiality that simply can't be washed off. It's hard to say whether this is because the filmmakers didn't try very hard to dig deep or there just wasn't anything interesting to be said about a young man who has lived most of his formative years under the inescapable scrutiny of the media at large. All I can say with certainty is that if I hear one more adult talk about Justin Bieber's sexual maturity (which happens multiple times in this film), I'll just have to give up faith in humanity altogether.
As you might imagine, a film like this draws from a wide variety of sources. As a result, the visual quality fluctuates quite a bit. All of it is watchable but none of it is eye-popping. There is a baffling amount of soft focus applied to one of the interviewees that would have been of concern if it didn't fit in with the general ‘we don't really know what we're doing' tone of the overall piece.
Much like the video, the audio quality is serviceable but nothing to write home about. It adequately conveys the enthusiasm (occasionally bordering on creepiness) felt by everybody involved.
Mercifully, there are zero extras.
Watching Justin Bieber: Always Believing is akin to spending an hour with a group of teenage girls as they sit around cutting pictures of their idol out of a magazine and giggling over the latest bit of gossip they heard…except the girls are really grown-ups who have nothing better to do than talk about how Bieber's latest haircut or relationship with another starlet is going to impact his career. This tabloid level journalism doesn't come close to qualifying as a biography. If you are a fan of Justin Bieber, go watch Never Say Never again and call it a day. If you're not a fan, you're not really reading this sentence right now. My point is, everybody can Skip It.