SXSW 2019: The Boy Band Con: The Lou Pearlman Story

Lou Pearlman celebrates an album sales milestone with his band N*SYNC (from left - Justin Timberlake, Chris Kirkpatrick, Lance Bass, Johnny Wright, JC Chasez, Joey Fatone, Lou Pearlman). Photo Credit: Diane Bass

The Boy Band Con: The Lou Pearlman Story tells the story of the music mogul behind the success of both the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync.

If you were grew up in the late 1990s or early 2000s, you should be quite familiar with the boy band craze.  This was a period when tweens and teens were going insane over the boy bands.  Remember when boy bands were a thing?  Oh, how times have changed.  What none of us were familiar with was Lou Pearlman’s story as a music mogul.  Filmmaker Aaron Kunkel digs into Pearlman’s childhood in Queens while audiences will learn from the band members themselves about their experiences.  This was a man who acted like a father figure to these band members so when the ponzi scheme comes to light, it’s certainly a shock.

One of the things that should have raised a red flag was how Pearlman would lease charter planes than use Trans Continental planes.  After all, he owned an aviation company so it would probably make sense to fly his own planes!  There were times when he would take photos of Alan Gross’s models both lifting off and landing at the airport.  When Gross found out the truth, he couldn’t have been more upset.  Nobody could blame him for this.  Anyone would have a similar reaction.

This documentary sheds some light into Pearlman’s story through intimate interviews.  As you can imagine, it’s not easy for some people to discuss their relations with Pearlman.  I couldn’t help but feel for Aaron Carter when he starts to break down on camera.  I also couldn’t help but notice that Justin Timberlake doesn’t appear.  The N’Sync band members on camera include Lance Bass, Chris Kirkpatrick and JC Chasez.  AJ McLean is the only Backstreet Boys member who appears on camera.  Yet for so many involved, it’s the first time that they’re telling their side of the story.

While Lou Pearlman is no longer alive to tell his story, he appears through audio only.  Most of these appearances come by way of recorded phone calls.  There is one instance where he threatens to report Gross to the authorities.  Perhaps it is a case of paranoia on Pearlman’s part?  Quite possibly.  Because Pearlman is dead, we might never truly know.

The Boy Band Con doesn’t really break new ground on the documentary genre but offers a new perspective to the boy band craze in America.

DIRECTOR:  Aaron Kunkel
FEATURING:  Lance Bass, AJ McLean, Ashley Parker Angel, Chris Kirkpatrick, JC Chasez, Johnny Wright, Lynn Harless, Aaron Carter, Nikki Deloach, Diane Bass, Lou Pearlman (archive)

The Boy Band Con: The Lou Pearlman Story holds its world premiere during the 2019 SXSW Film Festival in the 24 Beats Per Second program. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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