In the opening of “Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry,” an Apple TV+ documentary about the young electropop singer-songwriter who takes the world by storm, a fan was injured at the concert. Eilish asked the crowd to clear a path to let the medical personal pass through, then, she, onstage, asked her fans: “Are you guys OK? You guys need to be f**king OK cuz you are all the reason I’m OK.”
Like a lot of people, not just Eilish’s fans, may feel the same as I do during the pandemic: something is definitely wrong, and we are not OK. I can’t stop questioning myself while watching the film: is she really OK? To be specific, director R.J. Cutler (“Belushi,” “If I Stay,” and “The September Issue”) is able to make Eilish discuss her depression and show her symptom of Tourette Syndrome in front of the camera. The singer also opens up she being overwhelmed by social media, the unhealthy relationship that broke her heart, and some radically honest sentences and drawings from her notebook with self-harming suicidal messages.
Eilish’s helicopter mom Maggie Baird, always tries to stay with her all the time, is also doing her best to understand her daughter. She comments later in the film by connecting Eilish’s behaviors and emotions with what teenagers are facing right now: “It’s a horrible time to be a teenager. Kids are depressed.”
But don’t make any mistakes before we move on. Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell is not a typical teenage girl. She’s one of a kind despite she is madly crazy for Justin Bieber, bringing Rick and Morty backpack on the tour, and still living with her parents in an ordinary house where she grows up in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, just looks very similar to mine nearby the area.
Although opens with the footage of Eilish singing her SoundCloud life-changing breakout ‘Ocean Eyes,’ “Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry” is not the “Eilish origin story” as Cutler doesn’t walk us through the story of her growing up (however, thanks to her family regularly record their lives on smartphones, we see some footages from her childhood and early teens). Cutler started to follow Eilish from 2018 and focused on her life during 2019, the year her debut studio album ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’ turned her into a megastar and record-breaker across multiple streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music.
The film looks into Eilish’s stardom and offers us an extreme close-up with incredible intimacy, yet it explores its topic and scales so deep that sometimes it feels like an epic. Cutler doesn’t even bother to explain why Eilish is one of the most iconic stars in our generation unapologetically, we all know her name and her creations, and for those who are not familiar with her (like my father who once asked the name of “that light green hair girl” when we were watching Oscar last year despite he had heard “Bad Guys” on the radio hundreds of time), you will understand right away you hear her voice then feel the energy and emotion from the songs.
So, again, is she really OK? “Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry” takes us back to the time Eilish and her supportive brother Finneas O’Connell created some of her hits in their tiny bedroom. From these behind-the-scenes, Cutler gradually brings up her mental health problem, her struggle with anxiety, the injury that forced her out of the dance world and continues to challenge her as she wants to give fans the best onstage performance they deserve. People will eventually react to her unrivaled works and judge her behaviors, an enormous pressure no one can imagine to be put on this 17-year-old teenage girl. With a bright career rising, the young star is also trying hard to live with her new identity.
Cutler wraps up the film at the 2020 Grammys where Eilish would be the second and youngest artist to take home all the major awards including Best New Artist, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Best Pop Vocal Album. Very near the end, the film also presents the creation process of her new song “No Time to Die,” the theme song for the upcoming James Bond film which she has becomes the youngest singer to sing for James Bond films, and I just can’t wait to listen to the song with the stereo system in theater (though we all don’t know for sure when it will finally be released due to the pandemic).
These are very perfect highlights to end the film as they are not only some of the most memorable moments before the pandemic hit the world, but also a reminder for the audience: she’s not going anywhere soon, and there’s still a promising path ahead of her. Eilish’s music is not for everyone, it only speaks to people with similar struggles who need a voice to guide them. For me, the world is a little blurry, and Eilish’s music leads us pass through the mist like a lighthouse standing still in a fogging dark night.
- Distributor: Apple TV+ and Neon
- Production: Apple Original Films, Interscope Films, Lighthouse Management & Media, Matador Content, The Darkroom, and This Machine
- Director: R.J. Cutler
- Writer: R.J. Cutler
- Producer: R.J. Cutler, Anthony Seyler, and Trevor Smith
- Cast: Billie Eilish, Finneas O’Connell, Maggie Baird, and Patrick O’Connell
- “Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry” opens in selected theaters and available on Apple TV+ Feb. 26, 2021
Read the review in Chinese