In his feature film directorial debut, comedian Bo Burnham deftly encapsulates the awkwardness, angst, self-loathing and reinvention that a teenage girl goes through on the cusp of high school. Given that the 27-year-old stand-up comic achieved fame as a teenager himself through YouTube by riffing on his insecurities, he is uniquely capable as the film's writer and director to tell the story of Kayla, an anxious girl navigating the final days of her eighth grade year, despite creating a protagonist w female instead of male.Like Burnham did more than a decade ago, 13-year-old Kayla turns to YouTube to express herself, where she makes advice vlogs in which she pretends to have it all together. In reality, Kayla is sullen and silent around her single father and her peers at school, carrying out most of her interactions with her classmates on Instagram and Twitter. Her YouTube videos are a clever narrative tool that provide insight into her inner hopes and dreams, much like an aspirational online diary.One of Eighth Grade's biggest triumphs is in its realism. Played with charm and delightful nuance by Elsie Fisher, Kayla doesn't speak a single line that isn't peppered with "umm," "like" or "whatever." Her posture and gestures communicate how uncomfortable she is in her own skin. She has acne that she hides under makeup and Snapchat filters. Her attempts at depth in her videos are adorably off the mark, such as her advice that, "The hard part of being yourself is that it's not easy."Burnham's attention to detail helps weave a 2018-specific yet universally relatable image of teendom. Kayla stays up late scrolling through Buzzfeed quizzes and slime videos, has a Hamilton calendar and Justin Bieber poster on her wall, and signs off her videos with the slang term "gucci." Her middle school sex ed video includes an actress saying learning about puberty is "gonna be lit." The reference might be of the now, but the feeling it conveys, of adults awkwardly appropriating slang for their own agenda, resonates no matter what era in which you came of age.Eighth Grade's unique skillfulness in communicating Kayla's inner life is often thanks to the film's sound and music teams. The three beeps of a Mac laptop's Photobooth application precede each of Kayla's vlog monologues. Enya's "Sail Away" provides a poignant soundtrack to Kayla escaping into the online world on her phone late at night. The score swelling to dramatic highs then abruptly stopping creates many of the film's laugh-out-loud moments and mirrors the emotional rollercoaster that is puberty. When Kayla attends a pool party, she pauses just inside a sliding glass door, nervously watching the scene outside while a Jaws-like theme plays. She finally reaches for the handle and the music cuts out right as the door sticks, ruining her cinematic act of bravery.At one point, Kayla gets the chance to hang out with some high school kids at the mall, and one of them comments that kids Kayla's age are "wired differently" because they began interacting with social media at such a young age. However, while Kayla does spend a majority of the film in the glow of her iPhone screen, Eighth Grade illustrates that as much as things are different for the current tech-emersed generation of children, their emotional evolution remains the same. Kayla must still navigate judgemental queen bees, predatory popular boys, clueless teachers, and overprotective parents on her way to coming into her own. For anyone who's ever been an eighth grader, Kayla's quiet journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance is encouraging and edifying.~Kaitlin Elise Miller
Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Bo Burnham and Actress Elsie Fisher
Transitioning from middle to high school we're introduced to Karla (Elsie Fisher) in her final week of 8th grade. Looking at how challenges of a teenager have changed, but mostly stay the same Eighth Grade hits on some of the awkward and painful notes of what it's like growing up. From dealing with popular students who aren't your friends to the crushes you look back on and go, "Ugh, why did I do that?" everything feels truthful. It's a shame that the MPAA's myopic view of what is "R rated" means the age demographic who ought to see this the most will not, unless their parents allow it.
Almost feels like a straight up horror movie, I don't know why I felt such dread for Kayla while watching, besides it I'm sure relating to my own experiences in high school and social interactions in general. The bonfire chat Kayla has with her dad is one of the best scenes of the year; Bo Burnham wrote it so well and Elsie Fisher and Josh Hamilton play it perfectly. Although pretty different in particulars, it reminds me as being emotionally similar to the conversation with the dad at the end in Call Me By Your Name. Also credit to Burnham for not playing the dad role himself.
Most coming-of-age films usually stick to a tried and true formula that work but what separates "Eighth Grade" from many of these types of films is that it has a replay value that can be viewed over and over again not only for viewers who've already seen the film but for the next group of teenagers who will become adults as they too can look back and see how junior high was. Elsie Fisher truly delivers as the lead protagonist as the film gets my highest recommendation!
I'm not sure you could watch Eighth Grade and not find yourself attached to a moment or character that reminds you of your own jr high days. A sometimes tough, always realistic portrayal of a strange time we all go through, it also is a great depiction of how social media can effect things.
Bluray looks and sounds great, though it's just a little indie film so it's not like it's gonna be a demo disc.
Before I watched this I knew I was in for a great film. The entire start and finish of this movie is great. Dealing with that weird age everyone goes through in life and some things that occur earlier on in our younger years. Definitely a must see for those dad's who have daughters like myself. Makes me wish my kids didn't have to grow up. I give at a 9/10 overall.
This original and thought-provoking debut by Bo Burnham is a statement for so much. The current generation of youth. The detachment of the adults/powers that govern young people. The corruption of naivety and purity that children lose as their eyes are opened, both hilariously and tragically, to what is in store for them.
Like if John Hughes made a film for our generation
This movie hits right in the feels especially if you grew up in the 2000s. Eighth Grade is a relatively new film but can already stand toe-to-toe with some of the best coming-of-age stories ever made. It’s a sweet and touching movie that, despite its rating, people both young and old should watch.