On paper, Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry (directed R.J. Cutler, Apple TV +), would be a simple, teen-popstar concert film. Placing this documentary in such a limiting context would be to miss much of the greatness on-display here. Full-disclosure, I am a Billie Elish fan. Fuller disclosure, I am a 55 year-old man. So, by all outward appearances, I am not the target audience for either Billie’s music or this documentary. But, I would argue, this is a movie that has much to offer to any viewer, especially for those who only know Billie as that “weird girl who wears baggy clothes and sings Bad Guy.”
Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry is essentially the year-in-the-life of Billie Eilish, following her and her brother Finneas’ efforts to complete her first major album, subsequent tour, and rise from teen music phenomenon to mega-star. R.J. Cutler wisely follows every aspect of Billie’s life during that span of time, not just her performances, backstage moments, and fan interactions. Cutler captures the moments that illustrate what has garnered Billie such devout fans as what makes her such a special artist: her process, her openness, and her family.
For fans of Billie, the writing and recording process has become legendary. Part of the mythology of Eilish is that she and Finneas write and record all of her music in the bedroom of their modest L.A. home. Sure enough, we see that process. For fans, it’s amazing to see the beginning stages of yet-to-be famous songs. But, for the casual viewer, it’s still fascinating both watching the creative process and sitting-in on moments like the one where record executives crowd into a cluttered bedroom to listen to one of Billie’s newest tracks.
Even more rare, for a movie like this, is to have the focus of the documentary be so open. Most pop concert/tour films are either guarded or carefully craft the image presented of the performer. But here, Billie allowed Cutler full access. We see her going through everything one would expect of a young woman’s life: getting her driver’s permit, dealing with relationship woes, feeling alternately cool while also feeling like an embarrassing failure. The difference here is that this average young woman is also producing one of the most iconic albums of the last 10 years and playing before massive audiences of adoring fans.
But, when all is said and done, the true special spark of this movie is the window into Billie’s family life. We’ve had documentaries that show artists on the rise, writing iconic songs, playing legendary shows, baring their souls and troubled inner lives, but I can’t think of a music documentary that went this far at showing the family life of the performer. Billie’s brother, father, and mother are nearly constant players in this movie and in her life. We can see the support and encouragement they offer, but also the balance and perspective they try to give. And, like any teenager, she isn’t always going to follow that advice, but we also feel like they will be there to catch her when she falls. It’s touching, universal, and quite remarkable.
One scene captures the dichotomy and brilliance of this documentary. We watch a short video, apparently shot by Billie in their backyard. This could be the same sort of silly home movie shot in thousands of backyards all across America, but this is the backyard of Billie Eilish. Bille is planning out a music video she wants to make by using her mom as a model. The moment is genuine and shows the playful exasperation that many parents have felt helping their kids with some art project. The only difference is, this “art project” produced a video that, as of the writing of this review, has garnered 669 million views.
Take a listen to Bruce Purkey’s review of Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry Find Your Film. Also covered is the Apple TV+ feature Cherry:
Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry is now playing in theaters and is streaming globally on Apple TV+.