BILLIE EILISH: THE WORLD'S A LITTLE BLURRY -- An Ambitious but Inconsistent Portrait of a Young Star
Review by Sean Boelman
Winning her first Grammy Awards at the age of eighteen, Billie Eilish undeniably has one of the most astronomical rises to stardom in recent memory. The documentary Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry offers some strong performance footage and behind-the-scenes access, but filmmaker R.J. Cyler’s questionable approach keeps this from reaching its potential heights.
The film follows Eilish as she prepares and releases her first album, trying to cope with her newfound fame while still being a teenager. Cyler is known for his documentaries that peel back the curtain on tragic figures, but the issue with this is that Eilish’s story doesn’t feel tragic, especially with how young she is.
There is something to be said here about the exploitation of youth for entertainment, but Cyler seems unwilling to commit to say anything too hard-hitting about his subject. Throughout the movie, Eilish voices doubt in herself, but it’s just brushed off as stage fright rather than the genuine manifestation of anxiety that it seems to be.
Ultimately, a majority of viewers are going to come into the film already being fans of Eilish, so it won’t take much for them to respect her music. However, in developing her personality off the stage, Cyler treats her like a fully-realized adult, and while this respect for her is welcome, the immature moments caused by her childhood coming to an abrupt and early halt end up being frustrating.
One of the movie’s other problems is that it is nearly two and a half hours long. Although a significant majority of that runtime is made up of concert recordings that fans will certainly want to see, some of the other material begins to feel a bit repetitive after a certain point. It feels like this could have been cut down to less than two hours.
That said, Cyler does impress in the way he uses Eilish’s music. Unlike a lot of music documentary subjects, Eilish doesn’t have an extensive catalog of songs to pull from since she is so new to the scene. Yet despite this (and the relatively bloated length of the film), Cyler manages to create an effective enough rhythm with the variety.
He also brings a really infectious energy to the movie through the cinematography and editing. Eilish’s performances are naturally very enthusiastic, but the way in which Cyler shoots them makes them even more entertaining. Many of them are presented in the way a thriller would be, simulating the experience of Eilish’s nerves.
Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry tries to take an interesting approach to its subject, but it doesn’t always pay off. Maybe one day down the line after Eilish’s career has progressed a little further, we will get the in-depth portrait of her life she deserves.
Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry hits Apple TV+ on February 26.