R.J. Cutler’s new documentary film “Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry”, which was released on Apple+ in last month, often feels like watching the extended opening chapter for whatever will come next. Here is an apparently talented singer/songwriter, and the documentary willingly presents the various personal sides of its human subject, but I could not help but wonder whether the documentary can be more interesting if it is made, say, 10 years later.
The human subject in question is Billie Eilish, a young American musician who is about to be only 20 in this year but has been one of the biggest online pop music stars during last few years. When her performance of a song written by her brother Finneas was uploaded to SoundCloud in November 2015, they did not expect that much, but, what do you know, this led to an online sensation way beyond their imagination, and Eilish soon found herself turned into a major new star to watch thanks to the following commercial success of several subsequent songs written by her and her brother.
During the first half of the documentary, we observe Eilish and her brother working on the songs for their upcoming debut studio album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”, and their rather unorthodox working environment is a bit amusing to watch. Instead of working within a conventional recording studio, Eilish and her brother work in a bedroom turned into their own recording studio, and it is interesting to see how easily they can record their songs together with a few equipments in their bedroom studio.
We also meet their parents Patrick and Maggie, who are your average open-minded Californian parents. Despite their kids’ enormous success, they and their kids are still living in a small and modest suburban house, and it seems they are all mostly happy together in their house. While understandably concerned about their kids, Patrick and Maggie are certainly proud of how much their kids have succeeded within a very short time, and they are always ready to support their kids. At one point, Eilish confides to her parents on how much she feels pressured and annoyed by the ongoing album production process, and her patients patiently listen to her while also reminding her of what she is supposed to finish along with her brother as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the documentary shows us a series of video clips of onstage and backstage moments surrounding Eilish, who always brings positive energy to her adoring young fans out there. Regardless of whether they are actually great or not, it is undeniable that her songs have certain specific emotional appeals to her young fans, and she willingly shows gratitude and appreciation to them because she was once one of those girls quite enthusiastic about, yes, Justin Bieber. As a matter of fact, Bieber directly approached to Eilish for the permission to perform her new song “Bad Guy”, and she could not possibly be more excited about that.
While closely observing how Eilish busily alternated between her concert tour performances and her album production, the documentary gives us several entertaining moments for us. When Eilish came to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, she and her family were thrilled to meet Katy Perry, who gave Eilish a little pep talk during their brief encounter. When she was later introduced to Perry’s boyfriend, Eilish initially did not recognize him at all, and that led to another humorous moment in the documentary.
Meanwhile, the documentary also pays some attention to a few personal problems in Eilish’s private life. Like any other adolescent girls around her age, she cannot help herself in case of her occasional emotional angst, which got much worse when she happened to have a breakup with her boyfriend. In addition, she suffers from her Tourette syndrome from time to time, and she also has to deal with her leg injuries and the resulting pains, which got exacerbated by jumping a bit too much during her concerts.
Nevertheless, Eilish has kept going on with her family standing by her as much as possible, and the second half of the documentary looks at how much she has advanced during 2018-2020. While doing many concerts around the world as usual, she eventually released her first studio album as demanded, and we also see her and her brother intensely working on the main title song for a new James Bond film. As many of you know, the song turned out to be released too early because the theatrical release of the movie was postponed to October 2021, but the song itself was another major success for Eilish and her brother, who received together another Grammy for that a few weeks ago.
While showing how Eilish reached to the top officially at the 2020 Grammy Awards, the documentary certainly leaves a feel-good impression on us in the end as expected, but it somehow feels half-baked on the whole as merely looking like the end of the beginning of Eilish’s stardom. Will she be tragically fizzled like Amy Winehouse? Or, will she be more matured and skilled to become someone equal to Lady Gaga or Taylor Swift? I do appreciate that Cutler and his crew give us an intimate look into Eilish’s career and private life, but, to be frank with you, I wish the documentary delved deeper than what is presented on the screen.
Overall, “Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry” turns out to be not as hefty as I feared despite its rather long running time (140 minutes), and I conclude that Eilish does have right stuffs to be an enduring pop star, but I still think it will be more interesting to observe and regard her after 10 years at least. Of course, I have really no idea on what will happen next during next 10 years, but I can only wish good luck on her life and career.