When we saw the running time was 2 hours and 20 minutes, we were reticent to hang in there, but we did because director R.J. Cutler lets Eilish expose every aspect of her still maturing teen being. We intended to just watch just the first part of the documentary, but were drawn in by Eilish’s openness, knowing without fear to reveal exactly who she is. She is specific about her wants and needs, self-deprecating, but often demanding for good reasons.
But she has a style all her own. She’s smart but wears her heart on her sleeve. We stuck with it because Eilish is shown in this film to be such an engaging character, down to the signature, loose, artistic outfits she hand picks to wear on and off stage. Often coordinated with the color of her hair.
Cutler goes through the perfunctory childhood pictures with her brother Finneas playing guitar and piano as kids in the ranch home where they still reside in the hills in LA. They have always worked writing her songs and performing together. Her parents are down-to-Earth who understand Billie’s erratic behavior, having Tourette Syndrome which may explain her acting out and the tic shaking her head and her wide eyes to get back on course.
After the first 40 minutes, we still weren’t sure we were going to stick with it, but Billie is engaging being so honest with herself and with her parents. And Cutler uses a very intimate style getting close up shots interacting with those in and around her circle. Even when she gets irritated with them for forcing her to pose for pictures with label execs who she thinks care nothing about her personally, they talk it out. Her parents apologize for not responding in the moment. There is dialogue and understanding. Their open communication is impressive.
Brother Finneas is immensely talented as her producer, songwriter, accompanist, and performer. The two of them sitting on his bed writing songs together on a cell phone shows their creative interaction. They wrote and recorded a whole album in that bedroom. We would have liked to know more about Finneas since he has and still plays such a big part in her life. He’s helped her be the first performer to win Grammy’s in the four major categories and one for himself as her Producer with the album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” and the song “ Bad Guy.” She’s also known for recording the new James Bond movie theme song, “No Time to Die.”
Billie doesn’t like the writing process as much as performing. She almost whispers and is defiant about not belting it out. She’s very physical on stage. Her goal, most often, is to give her audiences, which she refuses to label her fans, the best show ever, even if it means injuring herself jumping and dancing on stage. She works so hard at it, she even tore ligaments in her ankle jumping on the opening song. Hurt and angry, she hobbles off, eventually coming back to the screaming crowd wearing a boot putting on a show. Billie is fearless interacting with her following when they come up to her car, bus, or even going right up to the line forming for her concerts. She dives right into the audience there, too. And she seems so satisfied when they sing back every lyric.
Cutler shows a couple of first rights of passage for the teen, going for her driver’s license resulting in jubilation, and dealing with her first love and breakup, which she, very maturely, called off. It also reveals her star struck reactions to meeting her idol Justin Bieber and then Katy Perry and her fiancé Orlando Bloom. She is so unassuming, she didn’t realize she was meeting her idol from Pirates of the Caribbean, Bloom. It’s fun to see her be so tickled by her own lack of savvy.
Director, R. J. Cutler (Belushi) covers this explosive young talent in this very long documentary that could have used some judicious editing to cut down the running time. But, to his credit, he lets her music play when she’s performing, so you get a real sense of her music and stage presence and why that makes her so appealing. Cutler shows her body of work is already impressive. We hope the director follows up in a few years to see where Billie goes from here. But we also hope the next film is a bit shorter.
Apple TV+ 2 Hours 20 Minutes R
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