‘Bo Burnham: Inside’ Review: Netflix Special Is Pandemic-Era Genius

Burnham’s spectacular one-man technical feat, now on Netflix, is a scathing musical fantasia.


How do you craft escapism when get away is not an choice? Bo Burnham grew to become the digicam on himself. The lanky comedian-turned-filmmaker has been handing over wry musical standup paintings since his teenager years, however the pandemic compelled him to rethink his way. Whilst “Bo Burnham: Inside” has been billed as a marvel Netflix comedy particular from a man who has made a couple of them, it’s if truth be told a some distance stranger and profound feature-length immersion into the anxieties of a 12 months when the very thought of a “comedy particular” seemed like a misplaced reason. The result’s extra Charlie than Andy Kaufman, as “Within” turns into much less about messing with the target market than plunging them into the contours of Burnham’s conflicted thoughts, mining sensible and scathing observations within the procedure.

Burnham wrote, directed, edited, and starred on this minimalist musical fantasia, shot solely in his house in Los Angeles during the last 12 months, and the result’s an excellent one-man technical feat loaded with surreal twists and dense statement beneath the veneer of sophomoric gags.

Burnham churns out cheeky vulgar tunes that sound like “Sesame Boulevard” by means of George Carlin, however the overarching premise clarifies the younger comedian storyteller’s rising worldview in putting phrases. Along with his acclaimed characteristic debut “8th Grade” at the back of him, Burnham has necessarily crafted a microbudget characteristic in regards to the final guy on Earth coming to phrases with a truth that has already slipped past his seize. Quarantined and matted from the primary scene, he careens via oddball melodies and monologues about fashionable occasions, leading to a hilarious disaster of awareness long gone wild.

From the instant he emerges at his keyboard, in a bland room illuminated brash white lighting, Burnham’s frustrations with the character of recent leisure take dangle. The similar man who changed into a YouTube phenomenon at 16 has grown weary of what it way to stay audiences hooked to distract them from existence’s darker truths. “Open huge,” he sings, “Right here comes some content material. It’s a lovely day to stick within.” Sooner than lengthy, he’s shifted to a refrain that comes with the lyrics “What the fuck is happening” as he time and again hits fun observe button. Sooner or later, he addresses the digicam to give an explanation for his intent to make a comedy display with the quarantine equipment at his fast disposal — or mainly damage himself within the procedure. Simply above his fascinating grin lurks an eerie stare, and the following journey lingers between the ones two extremes, as Burnham comes mighty as regards to a laugh himself to demise.

It’s no longer the subtlest conceit, however those aren’t refined occasions, and Burnham’s barrage of visuals and impressed tunes quantity to pitch-perfect gallows humor for an generation that prospers on maximalism at each flip. Along with his overgrown beard and unkempt hair, this scrawny 6’5″ guy (who’s set to play Larry Chook in an upcoming HBO particular) cuts an obtrusive messianic determine and mocks that influence with fiery patience. Pronouncing the absurdity of “a white like me therapeutic the sector via comedy,” Burnham is going on to turn that laughter isn’t a balm; it’s a protection mechanism, and in his case, the darkness assists in keeping seeping in.

Clocking in at slightly below 90 mins, “Bo Burnham: Within” on occasion adopts the listless high quality of the quarantine regimen at its middle. On the other hand, whether or not or no longer you include the unusual tonal shifts and abrupt transitions between vignettes, the enjoy is a continuing audiovisual thrill. From moving side ratios to separate monitors, beautiful experiments with mild and shadows and an array of musical results, Burnham has constructed an intricate tapestry of cinematic gadgets to deepen the mental intrigue in play. However in the middle of the chaotic show, advanced concepts burst into the body from sudden instructions. In one among his most powerful bits, he will get right into a seething argument with a Marxist hand puppet in regards to the genocidal undertones of Western civilization; in any other, a bebop song about unpaid interns expands right into a metaphysical hall-of-mirrors series, with Burnham looking at himself onscreen, seeking to make sense of what he’s doing right here — simplest to tumble additional down the rabbit hollow.

Burnham’s earlier degree paintings has incorporated some insubstantial punchlines that depend at the surprise worth of edgy material (hello, right here’s a homosexual funny story!), which continuously labored towards the most obvious multimedia ability on show. Right here, as he turns 30 on digicam and contemplates a dismal long term, he unearths a contented medium between the silly-strange nature of his degree presence and the complicated storytelling instincts obvious from “8th Grade.” As with that film, he fixates at the bad attract of shutting the sector out in an generation of on-demand distractions. And on this case, he’s the distraction. “Apathy is a tragedy and tedium is a criminal offense,” he sings. “Can I pastime you in the whole lot at all times?”

Burnham’s paintings right here stocks some DNA with Maria Bamford’s 2012 “The Particular Particular,” shot in her house with an target market solely composed of her folks. But “Bo Burnham: Within” has no actual precedent since its whole tone emerges from an remarkable second in human historical past. His maniacal, passive-aggressive display presence suggests he’s grown cynical about developing artwork in a global that reduces it to natural capitalist product. However he additionally excels at subverting the ones barriers. Burnham is infrequently the Jesus determine he seems like, however he’s undoubtedly some more or less mad prophet for loopy occasions. He is also conflicted in regards to the global nowadays, however there’s a lot to glean from looking at him make sense of it.

Grade: A-

“Bo Burnham: Within” is now streaming on Netflix.

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