USA TODAY US Edition

Billie Eilish is clear-eyed in ‘Blurry’ film on Apple TV+

- Patrick Ryan

The documentar­y tracks the pop phenom’s rise and her coping with family and fame.

No one loves “The Office” more than Billie Eilish.

The pop star sampled a clip from NBC’s beloved mockumenta­ry series in her 2019 song “My Strange Addiction,” and has since flaunted her fandom in a podcast with Steve Carell and “Office” trivia game with Rainn Wilson.

So when it came time to make her documentar­y “Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry” (streaming on Apple TV+ Friday), Eilish, 19, naturally looked to the workplace sitcom for inspiratio­n.

“When we first met and were chatting about the (film), I was like, ‘What would you want it to be like?’ ” director R.J. Cutler tells USA TODAY. “And she said, ‘I want it to be like “The Office.” ’

“She wanted that kind of real and comprehens­ive (approach), and that John Krasinski relationsh­ip with the camera where a glance over can break the fourth wall. We do it two or three times in these critical moments, where she looks right down the barrel of the camera.

“You know that she’s seeing you and she knows you’re seeing her. It’s that very Billie Eilish connection with the audience.”

‘She’s the boss’

That connection is part of what makes “Blurry” the most intimate and revelatory music film in years. Many of Eilish’s peers have released documentar­ies recently, as a means of reinventio­n or promoting albums. But most only scratch the surface of their subjects’ interior lives, while Cutler digs deep into the tenacity and trade-offs of fame.

Running nearly 21⁄2 hours, “Blurry” forgoes talking head interviews and voiceovers for vérité-style footage and refreshing­ly unvarnishe­d home video (much of which was shot by Eilish and her family). The first half is devoted almost entirely to the making of her Grammy-dominating debut album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”, which she co-wrote and recorded in her modest Los Angeles home with

brother Finneas O’Connell, now 23.

Told through laptop screens and iPhone videos, we watch as the siblings experiment with sounds and work through lyrics for future hits such as “Bad Guy,” all while venting to their parents, Maggie Baird and Patrick O’Connell, about looming album deadlines. Many of the song and visual ideas spring directly from Eilish’s vivid sketchbook­s. At one point, she charmingly directs her mom in their backyard, shooting proof of concept for her “When the Party’s Over” video.

“Billie Eilish is the vision of Billie Eilish:

her entire body of work, her image, her business. She’s the boss,” Cutler says. “That footage was shot when she was 16, and the compositio­n and specificit­y and confidence she has is great to see. It won’t be surprising if Billie’s career ultimately involves a really healthy amount of directing.”

Nothing was off-limits

Cutler doesn’t shy away from the struggles, acting as a fly on the wall as Eilish deals with heartbreak, growing up and multiple leg injuries from performing. On a whirlwind European tour, Eilish talks frankly about loneliness and feeling disconnect­ed from her friends back home. In another conversati­on with her mom, she debates releasing “Xanny,” in case the song’s anti-drug sentiment could come back to bite her when she’s older.

We also get rare glimpses into her relationsh­ip with a now-ex-boyfriend, nicknamed Q, through giddy phone calls and behind-the-scenes footage. She sweetly serenades him before playing the biggest show of her career at Coachella 2019, only to be stood up when she gets offstage. She tearfully rides back to her hotel and hugs her brother, their words just out of earshot.

Eilish opened up to Vogue last year about falling into depression after dating someone who treated her poorly but has otherwise kept her relationsh­ips private.

“We’re thoughtful, we’re sensitive – we’re not hiding in corners. But there was no specific area of her life at all that we were not invited into,” Cutler says. At the end of the day, “we’re telling the story of this extraordin­ary artist who’s exploding on the world cultural stage, and of a young woman who’s crossing the threshold from childhood to adulthood.”

‘I literally can’t have a bad moment’

Cutler credits Eilish’s family and team for helping her navigate stardom, along with celebrity mentors Justin Bieber and Katy Perry, who make endearing cameos offering advice. But it’s not always perfect.

One of the doc’s saddest moments comes late in the film when the singer is ambushed by various executives and their kids demanding pictures at her concert. Afterward, she sees a comment online saying she was “rude at the meetand-greet.”

“I literally can’t have a bad moment,” says Eilish, understand­ably frustrated. “I don’t want anyone who knows who I am and is any sort of fan or knows a fan to see me in any sort of awkward situation. It’s embarrassi­ng and I have to keep smiling, and if I don’t, they hate me and think I’m horrible.”

“No throwing her to the wolves,” her mom responds, acknowledg­ing they “failed” and promising to do better.

“The pressure is constant; it’s hard work,” Cutler says. But Eilish “is so damn smart. I remember asking her guitar tech the first day of shooting, ‘What’s the key to their success, Billie and Finneas?’ And he said, ‘They don’t give a (expletive) and they’re always right. They’ve been smart enough to surround themselves with the grown-ups who recognize that and support that, and don’t want them to be anything other than what they are.’ “

 ?? PHOTOS PROVIDED BY APPLE TV+ ?? Billie Eilish let camera into her life for her new Apple TV+ documentar­y “Billie Eilish: The World's A Little Blurry,” streaming Friday.
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY APPLE TV+ Billie Eilish let camera into her life for her new Apple TV+ documentar­y “Billie Eilish: The World's A Little Blurry,” streaming Friday.
 ??  ?? Eilish, right, talks to her mother, Maggie Baird, who has helped the singer navigate fame.
Eilish, right, talks to her mother, Maggie Baird, who has helped the singer navigate fame.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA