I recently watched Bo Burnham’s new Netflix special. “Inside” is…something. It brings to mind two movies I’ve seen several times. But first, I want to talk about it as art. There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s an excellent work of art. It evoked a lot of emotion, including confusion and discomfort.
The discomfort comes from the intimate feel it has. Burnham has been open about his struggles with mental health. “Inside” is not always clear on how much is Burnham being sincere and how much is him exaggerating reality for effect, as art often does. In this way, it brings to mind Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.”
“The Wall” came about after Roger Waters spat on noisy audience members and expressed a desire to build a wall between the audience and the band. But I seriously doubt that Waters actually wanted to shave off his nipples or create a Nazi-like following. “The Wall” took a sincere feeling and made art out of it. Is “Inside” the same?
I hope so. There are definitely times where it felt sincere enough that I was uncomfortable with the awkwardness of watching Bo Burnham have a breakdown. Was that the goal?
“Inside” also reminds me of the Monkees’ flop of a movie. “Head” is just plain weird. It’s full of mostly unrelated bits that occasionally call back to each other. After a few viewings, I’ve started to feel like I have an idea of what it’s about, just not one I can articulate. It’s easier to express what “Inside” is about, but it’s still a weird mish-mash of content without a coherent arc.
I can’t say that I enjoyed “Inside”, but I did appreciate it as a work of art. Of course, it’s not perfect. It’s a little self-important and masturbatory. But it’s entirely Bo Burnham, and you can’t ask anything more than that.