Whether or not you’re a fan of Billie Eilish, you should probably watch her documentary. The music industry has a habit of chewing up and then spitting out female artists and Eilish’s meteoric rise to fame at such a young and tender age would normally be an immediate red flag. Couple that with her seemingly dark personality and you might be tempted to put her on your worry list, but Eilish surrounds herself with a tight-knit family who don’t just care for her – they care for each other.
RJ Cutler’s Billie Eilish documentary has a tremendous amount of access. We get to see her from the young woman first tasting success on SoundCloud to, almost instantly, a global superstar weighted down with Grammy awards. The film follows her while she writes her first album, whether she’s on the road, or at home, or even up on stage, performing to hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands of people. And yet Billie, still a kid, doesn’t seem to love the attention, or being looked at, or being treated like an idol. She struggles to write songs, she struggles with quality vs. quantity when touring non-stop takes a toll on her body and she’s unable to deliver the top-notch performance that only she expects of herself. For such a young kid, her work ethic is remarkable, but even more so is her ability to stay grounded. Clearly mom Maggie, dad Patrick, and big brother Finneas have a lot to do with this. Mom will be helping Billie do the blocking for her next music video in the backyard while dad obliviously picks up dog poop. Finneas delivers sitcom-quality pep talks, psyching up his sister as only he can, and only he understands she needs. The two are clearly close, he her writer and producer, as much responsible for her success as she is. They are a team, often together, never seen squabbling, delighting in each other’s success.
Maybe because this documentary is being shot so early in her career, Eilish in her family seem totally authentic and filter-free, not that they have anything to hide. They’re a surprisingly wholesome family, Billie’s biggest complaint that Maggie drives a minivan, an unappealing thought for a teenager about to get her first driver’s license, and her parents’ main concern seems to have been a tweenage obsession with Justin Bieber that’ll really come full circle by the documentary’s end.
Eilish is a massively talented woman with a solid lime green head on her shoulders and her Nikes firmly on the ground. She is a different kind of pop star, not divorced from her image, but not co-opting it either. She’s protective of herself without being jaded. You will hope, while watching this, that she can continue down this path, continue to make healthy choices, and to blaze a path for a new kind of entertainer – the kind that doesn’t have to sell her soul to get what she wants and deserves.