Film Review: Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry
Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry
Director: R.J. Cutler
In Theaters and Streaming on AppleTV+: 02.26
I grew up in a house where rock n’ roll barely existed, unless you count the Osmonds. Then at age 14, I saw a film called U2: Rattle & Hum. It started a lifelong obsession with the band and their music that continues to this day. For me, it will always be the Raiders of the Lost Ark of rockumentaries, and it’s incredibly special to me. But in terms of storytelling and creating an intimate portrait of an artist as a person, Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry far surpasses it and is easily one of the best movies ever made in the genre.
Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry is a coming-of-age story of Billie Eilish O’Connell, the teen singer-songwriter whose overnight rise to superstardom shook up the entire music industry. The film shows her rise to global superstardom as she navigates life on the road, onstage and at home with her family, including her older brother and partner in crime, Finneas O’Connell. He’s an astoundingly gifted songwriter and producer who recorded songs with his little sister in his bedroom, resulting in her becoming an internet sensation.
We also get to see quite a bit of Billie’s parents, Maggie Baird and Patrick O’Connell, who are with her on tour as well as at home, which is … a home. That is to say, a house, like one where normal people live. The film follows Billie and her family during the writing, recording and releasing her debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? It also follows them on tour and eventually to an unforgettable night at the Grammys.
Director R.J. Cutler (If I Stay, The World According to Dick Cheney) is more focused on showing us Billie as a teenager and, above all, as a person rather than as a performer. Although, we do get see some concert footage in the later section of the film. What makes this movie and Billie so fascinating is the realization that, unlike other young music stars with heavily choreographed numbers and carefully constructed images, there’s no major transformation into star mode when she steps out onstage. The simplicity and the desire to keep it real are a huge part of why people connect with her, and while she does have her whiny moments during the film, so would most of us.
She not only comes across as a normal teenager but also a likable one with an extraordinarily close and healthy relationship with her family. We see her insecurities, self-doubt and stubbornness, as well as a loving and lovable personality. The relationship between Billie and Finneas is so endearing that it’s hard to imagine how you could not root for these remarkable young people. Watching them play a rough version of No Time To Die for their mom—who smiles and says, “That sure sounds like a James Bond song to me”—is incredibly surreal and wonderful.
I’m only mildly familiar with her music, and as a 46-year-old man, I’m not necessarily in the target demographic any way, but I didn’t have to be to love Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry. I found myself identifying with her young fans far more than I ever expected to, watching them singing along and filled with emotion, saying things like, “Your music saved my life” and seeing the tears and the feeling of “Billie gets me.” That can seem a bit melodramatic, but hey, I remember feeling that way at my first Sting concert and my surprise at still feeling that at my last one almost two years ago.
But it’s ultimately the family dynamic, the rare privilege of joining them in this special time in their lives—and it is their lives, not just hers—that makes this a surprisingly emotional and uplifting film. Most remarkable of all, I actually left this movie feeling a lot of goodwill toward Justin Bieber, which is not a sentence I ever expected to be writing.
Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry is a beautiful film that I highly recommend. It’s one that lets us see its subject with a surprising sense of self-awareness, vulnerability and uncertainty, but filled with a sense of hope and gratitude. It’s a personal and daring movie that’s a must for fans and incredibly satisfying even for non-fans who just want to see what the big deal is and feel that superstars can still be people. This movie may not make you like her music, but if it doesn’t make you love or at least respect her on some level, I’m kind of worried about you.
When Finneas, the cool older brother you wouldn’t buy for a minute if he was a fictional character, makes a reference to trying to grasp the fact that they are millionaires, Billie smiles and replies with, “We are not millionaires. We have millions of dollars, but we are not millionaires.” If there’s one thing that the movie leaves you feeling above all else, it’s that she’s not wrong. –Patrick Gibbs