‘Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry’ Review: The Truth Behind The Enigmatic Superstar

Joseph Braverman reviews Billie Eilish: The World's a Little Blurry, a substantial documentary that properly delves into the life of the young superstar.
User Rating: 8

Beyond her singular artistry, pop sensation Billie Eilish is another type of rarity: she is hyperaware of the present. Where others look ahead to their next career move or fall back into blissful nostalgia, Eilish just wants to remain in the here and now. Its visible clarity and immediate access to emotions make it the most honest plane of existence. Thus, Eilish and the documentary format are a perfect symbiotic match.

Like his enigmatic subject, director R.J. Cutler believes that an authentic biographical portrayal means capturing someone’s candid thoughts during the precise moment of experience. Although it might look like a highly curated “behind-the-scenes” concert doc, Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry is really about honoring young artists who are swallowed up by fame before they can carve an identity. The Apple TV+ presentation is compiled of home video footage and backstage videography, chronicling Eilish’s debut album creation process from 2018 to the following year, which saw her reap the success of her lyrical vulnerability on “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”.

The then seventeen-year-old’s instant rise to stardom isn’t investigated — she was born and raised in Los Angeles, and her mother, Maggie Baird, is an actress and voice artist with assumed high connections. Her brother, recording partner, singer-songwriter collaborator, and producer Finneas O’Connell is like the electrical engineer who keeps his sister’s work batteries operational. Taken at face value, it isn’t surprising that a family of musicians with deep resumes made a success story out of their daughter. It’s totally fair to point to nepotism and privilege as easy launchpads that less fortunate young artists are denied. However, this alone doesn’t undermine Eilish’s natural gifts. Even in her own home environment, she’s something of a maverick, ready to shut off unless she’s given free rein to sing about issues her generation struggles with.

Even though Maggie’s impulse is to be a helicopter parent, and O’Connell is concerned about reputation and longevity, they know enough about Billie to relax the pressure. Too much, and she will shut down and doubt herself more than she already does. Eilish never realizes how hypnotic her vocals are, how much her lyrics make Generation Z feel heard for the first time. Eilish’s most laudable attribute is wanting her music to have demographic specificity; she’s proud that her music isn’t for everyone, nor should it be. As a viewer, it’s hard not to feel ambivalent about someone so young getting into this business, yet remain thankful her age group has someone to validate their emotions, especially depression.

Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry reminds us of the mental toll our current social and political climate takes on modern youth. Compound that with someone with a nervous disorder like Eilish — who takes her Tourette’s syndrome in stride — and you can understand why today is harder on the adolescent psyche than ever. Eilish is a beacon of hope for many. Her heroism and strength are derived from emotional transparency. She fully admits that performing on stage is her favorite part of her career, and without it, she couldn’t see much purpose.

Watching the crying faces in the crowd, feeling her music in every fiber of their being like she does, reinforces the significance of her art. She’s no longer hiding sketches of her sleep paralysis demon, cutting herself in her room, or writing concerning lyrics without anyone to hear the cry for help. Even though Billie constantly doubts herself and downplays her genius, she is her own best friend, an artist who saved herself from suffering alone by taking the bold leap of self-expression and hoping some would respond in kind. It turns out, millions did.

Much like Eilish, Cutler’s documentary takes a bit to warm up, but once it does, viewers who are unfamiliar with her music will themselves instantly captivated. Eilish is so raw, open about her co-dependency when it comes to love, and admits to wanting to be perfect or refuse to go on with a show. During her time as a dancer, her physical injuries often prevent her from giving her all to a concert performance, but her voice remains a steadfast remedy for the aggrieved soul. Ironically, Billie Eilish brings light to the world by channeling inner darkness, allowing it to escape to weaken its grasp.

Even though her music intentionally avoids universal appeal, avid listeners of all ages are stirred by her singing. For instance, you won’t find a funnier scene this year than watching Katy Perry introduce her boyfriend (a massive fan) to a bashful Eilish, only for Eilish not to realize the man she met was Orlando Bloom until her team insists she does a quick Google search. If that isn’t an alarming example of Millennials and Gen Z’s divides, I don’t know what is. Though some moments are cringe-worthy in hindsight — the Justin Beiber interaction, for one —  Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry succeeds at presenting its luminous subject without filter, who is honest about the problems that mirror her generation and doesn’t let celebrity status rob her carefree youth.

Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry is distributed by Apple and premieres exclusively on Apple TV+ this Friday, February 26, 2020

 

8
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Written by
Joseph Braverman is a 31-year-old film school alum from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Digital Media. He considers himself one of the biggest Star Wars fans in the galaxy, living by a golden rule that there is no such thing as a “bad” Star Wars movie. Joseph lives in Los Angeles, CA, and enmeshes himself in all things entertainment, though he’ll occasionally take a break from screen consumption to hike in Malibu or embark on new foodie explorations. Vehemently opposed to genre bias, he feels strongly that any good film is worthy of Oscar consideration. Joseph is also a proud member of the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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