“Inside” – Bo Burnham’s Netflix Special: Review
Starring, written, directed, and produced by Bo Burnham.
“Inside”, Bo Burnham’s newest special is available to stream on Netflix now.
TW: This review mentions suicide towards the end (I’ve marked the section with an * after the subheading) – please do not put yourself in harm’s way to read this if it will negatively affect you. We know you support us, you can give this one a miss if you need to.
Is this heaven? Or am I looking at “Inside”, from Bo Burnham?
Hundreds of articles have started by discussing just how hard the past year and a half has been. Creativity has been hard to come by and harder to harness (despite what Taylor Swift would have us believe), and we have all felt the pinch. It has all been so much, and none of us have felt like enough. Five years after his last special “Make Happy”, and hot on the heels of one of the best films of the year, “Promising Young Woman”, Bo Burnham is back with his hour-and-a-half special “Inside“, a poignant, heart-wrenching, comedic spectacular in neon and synth. God, if they aren’t all my favourite words.
“Inside” with you
I didn’t intend to write a review of “Inside”; it feels almost impossible to create anything of import or worth after watching such a masterpiece, but at the same time I had to write something, anything about it. At once blisteringly self-aware and sadly comedic, “Inside” is a window into the year we have a had apart, together. Musical numbers are interspersed with spoken word and candid behind-the-scenes style footage as we watch Burnham’s year long process of creating “Inside”.
Much like horror, music can be absolute annihilated by the ill-timed inclusion of comedy – especially music that wants to make a point. Burnham, though, has the Midas touch. Not only is his music funny, but it is genuinely good music. In each song, nestled quietly among the 80s synth beats and DIY neon light show will be an inevitable couple of lines, maybe a whole verse, that snatches your breath away. Once you pick your heart up out of your stomach and bring yourself to look up at the screen again, you’ll laugh. You’ll laugh and wait again. You know another is coming, and it’ll hit you just as hard.
Healing the World with Comedy
I have no doubt that there will be some who will feel that Burnham’s commentary on the white saviour complex or generic state of the world is performative. Aggrandising. Virtue signalling. I can guarantee it. For me, though, it’s what Burnham has been doing for years, and he does it well.
That’s the thing about Bo Burnham – his disarming self-consciousness. One of the main reasons Emerald Fennell picked Burnham for the role of Ryan in “Promising Young Woman” was…well…him. He is charming, he’s sweet, he’s self-effacing, and non-threatening. That’s why Promising Young Woman twists the knife, and it’s also why your jaw will hit the floor as he goes for the jugular once that sock puppet comes out…
Inside, Out *
Burnham is funny, he’s talented he’s creative, he’s relatable, and he gives young Kurt Russell circa 1982 vibes with his pandemic beard and hair. Beyond that, though, or perhaps because of it all, his unflinching honesty cuts all the deeper. Being sincere between the laughs is no easy task, and one which Burnham navigates with an unapologetic frankness. The creativity in portraying crushing, cyclical monotony is astounding, and Burnham’s candour when he pulls back between bits is grounding, with a thump. The exhausted PSA after an offhand reference to suicide and the end-credit cut to helplines for anyone struggling make your whole body soften with their sincerity.
There is it again, that funny feeling
“Inside” is uncomfortable and beautiful. It isn’t just the songs that will be stuck in your head for days – the whole 87 minutes won’t leave your mind for a long time after that, I am sure. In my humble opinion, we have a masterpiece on our hands in not just one of the best creative endeavours to come out of the pandemic era, but a high-point of Burnham’s career and a beautiful, neon highlight among anything I’ve ever seen.
Welcome back, Bo. My word, we’ve missed you.
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