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Disney+ Review: Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles

September 3, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Billie Eilish is one of the biggest pop stars on the planet at the moment, and now she has her own concert film in the form of Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles. Premiering on Disney+ today, the film serves as a companion piece to her chart-topping second album Happier Than Ever, as well as a tribute to her home city.

Directed by Robert Rodriguez and Patrick Osborne, the film mixes footage of Eilish performing every song from the album in front of an empty audience at the famous Hollywood Bowl, with loosely connecting scenes of an animated avatar of Billie driving around L.A. visiting iconic landmarks in between tracks.

The result is a decent concert film that gives us a chance to see and hear the young pop star working through her entire album from start to finish, backed up by her older brother and producer Finneas O’Connell on keyboard and guitar. They are joined by a variety of other guest stars, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, and Brazilian jazz guitarist Romero Lubambo, who joins in on the Bossa Nova-inspired track “Billie Bossa Nova.”

Eilish is in command here, whether dancing about onstage under flashing red lights to “Oxytocin” or jumping around to her banger single “Therefore I Am.” But the pop star is equally comfortable in more intimate moments, like a performance of “GOLDWING” featuring the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus. It culminates in a haunting, stripped-down performance of the album’s melancholic closing track “Male Fantasy,” with Finneas accompanying her on acoustic guitar and providing soft backup vocals.

In true Billie fashion, the title of Happier Than Ever is a bit of a façade, as the lyrics find her grappling with the dark sides of fame, getting taken advantage of, and body image issues. The title track itself starts softly, almost as a whisper, before building to a furious, rocking crescendo of electric guitar and drums, which is a thrill to see performed onscreen. As an album, Happier Than Ever also finds Eilish dabbling in a variety of musical influences, including pop, choral and jazz, and seeing it performed live makes us appreciate the artistry behind it even more.

In terms of spectacle, Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles is well shot by Pablo Berron, whose camera swirls around Billie onstage, and it features some interesting visual flourishes. No, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel or anything like that. But it’s a pretty solid and slickly produced concert film for fans of Eilish that may convert some new ones as well.

Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles is now streaming on Disney+.

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