Popstar: Mockumentary or Reality? (2016)
Comedies can easily articulate the humor that comes from everyday life without explicitly stating anything. Much like any art form, films can provide a mirror for us to reflect on life, trends, and choices we make. While I love comedies and they are my favorite genre I never really consider them “art” compared to more dramatic works and I believe a part of that is due in part to the nature of films that receive awards and garner “critical success”. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping openly mocks the self-absorbed lifestyle complete with oversharing, selfies, the need for attention and adoration, and the lack of consideration of what the consequences may be when decision-making. This isn’t to say that those who take selfies are completely self-absorbed, that needing attention is something to be frowned upon, or that the YOLO-lifestyle is inherently negative. Popstar, functioning as a mockumentary, just takes these elements a few degrees further to the detriment of Conner (Andy Samberg).
Samberg’s role is one that examines the duality between those in the spotlight with their public and private lives. His openness to sharing - or oversharing - would imply that he doesn’t necessarily have a private life. The paparazzo, CMZ (subtle), invade his life even though he’s putting nearly everything out there and the same happens outside of this film with celebrities we admire, despise, and even attempt to ignore. A celebrity can have all possible social media accounts and share every second of their day but there’s still going to be someone following them with a camera trying to snap moments in order to make a profit whether that’s releasing intimate date photos or a sweatpants grocery run.
We see the ego inflation in Conner as he rises above his fellow band members Owen (Jorma Taccone) and Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer). Lawrence retreats from the limelight entirely and though Owen sticks around he becomes less and less important to Conner. This is evident by not only his behavior but through the very conspicuous, Daft Punk-esque headpieces that become larger and more cumbersome. It makes you wonder what does happen to friends of those who have ridden to stardom. Many of them appear to be friends solely with fellow stars - but of course, that's what publications like TMZ or People publicize. With the exception of Rihanna, I can’t think of a celebrity off the top of my head who posts photos with and notoriously hangs out with non-spotlight friends they've kept since childhood.
Popstar wasn’t a hit at the box office (20 million budget recouping only 9.5 million), and it probably won’t ever be a hit even though it stars The Lonely Island, Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows, and Justin Timberlake as participating members of his circle. A number of famous musicians appear as interview subjects including Snoop Dogg, DJ Khaled, Nas, Usher, Ringo Starr, Questlove, A$AP Rocky, RZA, Pharrell, Carrie Underwood, P!nk, and Seal. As social commentary on what fame can do to an individual (consider the example of Justin Bieber who has been involved in a number of public incidents such as punching a paparazzi and a fan on two separate occasions) and how to identify who our true friends are, at any stage in life. This movie, though clearly mocking celebrity, fame, and ego, appears to mirror the true reality of our pop-culture infused lives. And I wonder if there’s some truth to the relationship of The Lonely Island group when Samberg is clearly the one who has made it much bigger than the rest of them and plays that role.
There’s nudity in this film and surprisingly enough, they show the male appendage. There’s excessive and successful attempts to manipulate Conner by appealing to his ego even though his music isn’t any good. There’s Mariah Carey who, after seeing a performance with the word ‘Humble’ in giant neon lights behind the stage stated “I’m so humble I instantly connected to that because I’m probably the most humblest person I know.” And, like any good musical, the final piece is an all-out performance extravaganza. Is it fun? Yes. Do I recommend spending 90 minutes on it? Only if you like The Lonely Island.