The best coming-of-age movie of 2021 revolves around an introspective California teen who just happens to be a multi-platinum-selling, Grammy-winning international superstar with dyed hair. As if Billie Eilish weren’t already a prominent voice of her generation.
The intimate new documentary is Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry, and as you may have surmised, it’s a fly-on-the-wall glimpse of the singer attempting to navigate the most extraordinary 12 months of her life. The journey starts with Eilish in her bedroom with her older brother, Finneas O’Connell, scribbling lyrics in her notebook that would eventually filter into her debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? It ends with her collecting five Grammys, including Album of the Year. She was 18.
In between, Eilish breaks Spotify records, tours the world, meets awestruck A-list fans and records the theme song for the new James Bond movie, No Time to Die. She has enough poise to tell screaming iPhone-clad fans during her Coachella set in 2019, “In life, we tend to do things and then we’re always looking forward to the next thing everything is about what’s happening right now . . . And this is happening right now. So why don’t we be in the moment, yeah?” Almost 20 tracks are featured in all, with many heard in their entirety during performance clips.
But this documentary is at its most engaging when Eilish is offstage and, ahem, Just Like Us. It’s easy to relate when she makes up silly handshakes with Finneas and practically skips across the front lawn upon getting her driver’s license. Like any angsty 18-year-old, she’s also prone to mood swings, eye-rolling and spats with her parents (who hit the road with her). The differentiating factor here is that she argues with them about her attitude during a backstage meet-and-greet with record label VIPs. (Thankfully, director R.J. Cutler doesn’t cut from the drama to an expert sitting in a chair expounding on Eilish’s genius.) These raw moments help justify the film’s extremely generous could-have-been-edited 140-minute running time.
Oh, and to be clear about Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry: There are also revelations galore, from her Justin Bieber crush to her real-life heartbreak. Here are the details. . .
1. She Had a Secret Boyfriend
His name is Brandon Adams. He goes by “Q.” He’s a singer in his 20s. And for much of 2019, he held a special place in Eilish’s heart. The two are seen holding hands and ice skating, and she often ends their phone conversations with an “I love you.” Alas, the two split. “I didn’t want the same things he wanted and I don’t think that’s fair,” she explains in a New York City hotel room. “I don’t think you should be in a relationship super-excited about things the other person couldn’t care less about. There was a lack of effort. Like dude, you don’t even have enough love to love yourself so you can’t love me and you don’t.” Still, she admits that she’s not over him, resigning the relationship with an all-too-empathetic sentiment: “I can’t fix him. I tried.”
2. She Isn’t Up on Katy Perry’s Love Life
While Eilish is at Coachella, Katy Perry visits her backstage to fan-girl. She also introduces her to her fiancé, Orlando Bloom, who apparently loves to play her music in the car. Eilish is polite enough when he hugs her and kisses her on the cheek, but admits later in her trailer that she couldn’t ID the handsome Brit in a pageboy cap. (“I thought he was some dude Katy Perry met!”) After Finneas reminds her that he played Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean and shows her photos — including the naked sunbathing ones from 2016! — she freaks out and pleads for a do-over. She gets one on the side of the stage.
3. She Really, Really, Really Loves Justin Bieber
Guess who was a charter Belieber. Eilish’s obsession with the former teen idol is so deep that she can recite the exact date and time that he graced Earth with his presence, along with the exact floor of the exact hospital of his birth. (Note: She doesn’t know these details about herself.) “He could ask me to kill my dog and I would!” she crows in a vintage clip, adding that he was her first love and she once sobbed into a pillow out of worry that no guy could ever match up. So, yeah, she’s just a little bit excited to read a personal DM in which he marvels at her talent and wishes her well.
4. She Has Alarming Tourette’s Attacks
Eilish has always been candid about her Tourette’s Syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes a person to have involuntary physical or verbal tics and movements. On-camera, she speaks about it often and has one brief “attack” mid-conversation with her marketing team. “It’s been coming on all day,” she explains to her mom, Maggie Baird, who gives her essential oils to help calm her. (They conclude that it must have been fatigue-induced.) After, she matter-of-factly explains that she once bit into a glass because “My brain is like ‘Do it!’”
5. She Used to be a Serious Dancer
Could Eilish have been the next Lady Gaga? She shares that she used to dance 12 hours a week — and there’s incredible video footage of a blonde pony-tailed adolescent Eilish spinning around a floor to prove it. She had to quit because she tore a plate in her hip, and the bone separated from the muscle. “It was the most depressing year of her life,” she admits. “I just laid in bed.” And though her career is still very much on the move, Eilish has not danced a step since.
Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry premieres on Apple TV + on Friday, February 26