BILLIE EILISH: THE WORLD IS A LITTLE BLURRY
(***)-VITO CARLI

"...fascinating subject and genuinely gifted..."

An Intimate Look at a Troubled Talent

(030621) Billie Eilish: The World is a Little Blurry is a surprisingly intimate and effective music documentary about the new electro pop superstar, Billy Eilish, who self-recorded her first album with very little studio interference and gained most of her seeming overnight popularity online.

At 13 years old she recorded a song, Ocean Eyes, which struck a chord in many teens and it became an immediate sensation when it was widely downloaded with a couple of hundred thousand hits. Her massive success seemed to come out of nowhere. This helped create an image of her as the ultimate self-made pop princess sensation even though some detractors have made much of the fact that her family had ties to the record industry which helped her along.

Billiemania hit in full force last year. One of the singer’s hits was able to get 720 million hits on Spotify, she has 15 million Instagram followers, and the singer recently swept the Grammy awards (earning Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best New Artist.)

Also, for those who care, her first and only album made the recent Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums All Time List at 397, improbably ahead of such undeniable classics as Brian Wilson’s Smile, the first Stooges album, and Something Else by The Kinks. Her latest project was a theme for a highly anticipated James Bond film, No Time to Die. Not bad for a 17-year-old that most people never heard of a few years ago.

The film shows how her family members were major influences on both her life and career and helped her achieve her goals. Her brother co-produced and helped write the songs off her album which they recorded together in her bedroom. He has to manipulate her to a certain degree to prevent her moodiness from negatively impacting her career, and he even has to “trick” her into delivering the hit single that the record company demands.

Her parents supported her creativity her whole life (they also had musical backgrounds) plus they provided her with instruments. They also prop her up when the teen who is prone to mood swings is in one of her psychological valleys (her Tourette’s syndrome also makes her hard to deal with at times.)

At one point she even admits that she has cut herself with razors when she thought she deserved it. Her darkly introspective confessional lyrics, often reflect her dark depressions and attraction to sinister subject matter. In one song, she quotes and identifies with the evil ambition of Sherlock Holmes’s main protagonist, Moriarty, when she says, “And honey you should see me with a crown,” and in Bad Guy, she proclaims she is a “make your girlfriend mad type/Might seduce your dad type.”

Her spirit animal is the spider and the film features an image of a big hairy one coming out of her mouth. This became one of her defining images and is featured on a popular poster.

The film also shows us her creative process and how she came up with some of her unconventional ideas. She tries lots of stuff out at first in her sketch book/journal. In one picture, she drew herself crying dark tears and she ended up drinking a dark liquid in real life until she cried black tears for a video while her dad picked up dog poop in the background.

There are also several celebrity cameos in the film. American Idol judge, Katy Perry, who was in a similar position as Billie ten years ago warns her that she may be in for a “weird ride.” But the most significant cameo in the film is undoubtedly Justin Bieber (sorry I am not a big fan) who Billie has been crushing on since she was 12 years old (she said she would do anything he wanted including kill her dog if he asked her to.) Billie is genuinely surprised to learn that Bieber also admires her work, and they collaborate on an alternate version of one of her big hits. Bieber who has often acted like a conceited jerk in public is surprisingly sensitive and he compliments her and tries to encourage her creativity.

In contrast her real life significant other, Q who we rarely see is the ultimate bad boyfriend. She gets him tickets into fancy shows, parties, and concerts, but he shows no appreciation. He continually blows her off, is never there for her, and seems to see her as a lesser part of his life. In a fit of anger, her boyfriend broke his hand by punching a wall which causes her parents to worry that he might physically act out his violent tendencies on her someday. The audience can be forgiven for hoping that she will choose better partners in the future.

The film also shows how the concerts and constant touring take a tremendous psychological and physical toll on her body. At one point she opens a concert and in the first few minutes she comes down wrong while dancing and gets a sprain and has to get painful physical therapy. Earlier on, she had wanted to become a professional dancer, but a serious injury ruined her dream.

Billie Eilish: The World is a Little Blurry is not totally without flaws. At almost two and a half hours it may seem a little long for anyone but super fans (at least in the theatre where you can’t pause it.) The film is undoubtedly aimed toward Billie’s fans (which tend to be young and female), but this film is so well done that it may convert some new people of all ages and genders into bona fide Eilish aficionados. No one knows if her fame will last or if she will be another Cyndi Lauper style flash in the pan, but as the movie makes clear , she is a fascinating subject and genuinely gifted. And at this time of pop conformity there is no one in pop music that looks or sounds quite like her, which is a good thing.

 

Directed & Written by:    R.J. Cutler
Starring:    Billy Eilish, Finneas O’Connell, Maggie Baird
Released:    042621
Length:    140 minutes
Rating:    Rated R for language throughout and brief nude
 sketches
Available on:    Apple TV+ and Selected Theatres

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to www.artinterviews.org and www.chicagopoetry.org. His latest book "Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor" is also available.

BILLIE ELISH: THE WORLD IS A LITTLE BLURRY © 2021 Apple Original Films
Review © 2021 Alternate Reality, Inc.