Billie Eilish: The World's A Little Blurry Review
A surprisingly fresh and original take on the music documentary genre
This review comes from my Letterboxd profile, where I write reviews like this of every movie I see.
I got a free trial of AppleTV+ just for this documentary, okay, don't judge me! It was so worth it! Now listen, I actually originally didn't want to see this film. It wasn't because I don't like Billie Eilish -- on the contrary, she's one of my favorite artists to listen to currently and one of my favorite currently working artists (I love when the swapping around of words brings two entirely different meanings). I love pretty much every single one of her songs (although there are some I just find less interesting than others), I adore her live performances (yes, including her Oscar performance), her brother Finneas is a genius when it comes to producing and songwriting, and come after me if you want, but in my opinion, she and Finneas earned every single Grammy they've been nominated for. So why didn't I want to see this movie if I'm such a big fan of Eilish? Because in general, the marketing made it seem like another run-of-the-mill artist-struggles-with-fame-and-touring documentary that, sure, is entertaining to watch once but doesn't really have any lasting impact beyond that. There's been a pretty recent trend of these films lately, and I don't know, I just got burned out from how many came out at once even though I admittedly haven't seen that many of them.
But then I started hearing people talk about The World's a Little Blurry. Audience members talked about how intriguing it really was, the rave reviews came in saying that this film was more than just a music documentary, Eilish summarized the film as something she and the crew started making as possibly a documentary about an indie musician trying to keep her fame going and it ended up turning into so much more with her sudden burst in popularity. Heck, I even had a friend tell me she really liked it. After a while, I became curious enough to check it out, and holy smokes, what a documentary film this is. Everyone was right, this isn't just an exploration of Eilish's musical journey. Heck, it's not even just an exploration of her sudden explosion into fame. It's an exploration of a teenager struggling to figure herself out and feeling like the world is putting way too much pressure on her to decide who she is right now. In that way, I genuinely think everyone can relate to this movie. Sure, perhaps Billie Eilish fans will appreciate this documentary more than most, much like BTS fans will appreciate Bring the Soul more than I did when I saw it with my best friend a couple of years back (despite the fact that I still overall enjoyed that documentary). That being said, I feel like this documentary brings a layer to its storytelling that a lot of music tour documentaries like this just don't touch on, partly because, well, they can't.
This isn't just an exploration of someone's anxiety involving touring, because yes, a lot of other artists could make documentaries surrounding that and they would probably be just as compelling. This isn't just an exploration of how someone deals with constant tour injuries and setbacks and stage anxiety and maybe even a little self-doubt, because again, other artists could probably make a similar documentary and make it just as compelling. This is an exploration of all of those layers being shoved onto a teenager, someone who hasn't experienced the world to its fullest extent and is still trying to figure out her inner self and trying to figure out how she wants the world to see her. She makes music, yes, and she loves touring and meeting people and feeling accomplished for the stuff she brings to the world, but she hates songwriting, she has her bad days, her bad moments, she's stubborn and wants to do things her way. In many ways, I personally relate a lot to those aspects of Eilish's personality. What I respect about this documentary is that it's not afraid to shy away from the moments where Eilish gets mad, where she freaks out for no particular reason other than she just wants a break from the world and she doesn't feel she can get it. A lot of other documentaries like this would shy away from those harsher family arguments and realities, but in this film, they embrace those sides of her. In fact, for the first 45 minutes, I was actually kind of uncomfortable because the sides of Eilish that I saw in that footage made her come across as kind of an unlikable person. About halfway through the film, though, I realized that those kinds of family arguments and sudden bursts of temper came from a place of wanting to do something her way, from wanting to prove herself to the world, not out of any actual malicious intent. She has many moments where she will openly decry an aspect of the music industry that she does not agree with, and that's something I think a lot of people can relate to. I've often found myself calling certain aspects of society ridiculous or, as I often say, "stupid" because they don't align with my personal logic of how the world should work. I'm actually around her age, she's only about two weeks older than me, so seeing her go through similar struggles that I do as she comes to terms with the way society as a whole expects people to act is really humanizing to me and I think will be humanizing for a very wide audience.
There's something about this movie that just clicked for me about halfway through. I didn't really think it was as amazing as everyone hyped it up to be for the first half because I didn' think it had that much of a cohesive narrative or spent appropriate amounts of time on each aspect of Eilish's music-making. In fact, I honestly thought this film was gonna focus even further back than it did, all the way back to the start of her career, but it only covers that briefly before it goes straight through the making and touring of When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? The second half, though, made me realize that The World's a Little Blurry isn't necessarily about how Eilish made her debut album or the music videos for her songs or any of that stuff, it's primarily about a teenager who's thrust into the spotlight and has to deal with the consequences of everyone trying to pick apart her every move. It's an absolutely fascinating, humanizing dive into a personality that a lot of people seem to find overhyped, but that a lot of other people, including myself, find is hyped just right. Maybe even if you don't like Eilish's music, watching this documetary will at least give you an appreciation for her as a person and the struggles she, and all other teenagers to a certain extent, have had to go through. Oh, and yes, if you do like her music, the concert sequences are, of course, fantastic.
Letter Grade: A+