Eighth Grade is a comedy-drama film written and directed by Bo Burnham in his feature-film debut. The film stars Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson, Jake Ryan, and Fred Hechinger.
The Story/The Direction:
It follows an eighth-grader named Kayla (Fisher) who struggles to finish her last week of classes before starting high school. This a coming of age film about a girl who grows up not right before college as a lot of other films have done but in middle school. For a lot of people, middle school is a struggle to get through as it is an awkward phase of peoples' lives where they are trying to discover who they are and that's without technology. Burnham is able to comment on how weird middle school was/is even without Instagram, Snapchat, and social media as a whole. Technology adds a whole other item to push through that could make middle school worse than it was for people without it. The film establishes the teenager environment and it really feels like it. In the opening scene, there are a lot of "likes" and "ums" that may make some cringe but it is used extremely effectively to create this middle school world that this film takes places in.
Burnham's humor in the film is different than what most would expect from a standup comedian. His jokes are based on the presentation instead of using punchlines. For example, Burnham shows Kayla looking up a fairly sexual YouTube instructional video but instead of showing the audience the actual video, he shows the situation surrounding it giving a lot of hilarious scenes. He also shows other typical teenager things to add comedy such as braces and acne but does not rely on them for the plot, rather they are reminders of the teenager part of life. While his film is mostly a comedy, he also touches on a lot of serious topics such as physical abuse and suicide without using them as a plot device. He does this all through Kayla's journey and the audience goes along with her.
Kayla is a fairly typical teenager and Fisher plays her brilliantly. Fisher is right around the age of Kayla, which adds to the film's authenticity. This film shows the audience her growing up through a technologically filled middle school. She tries to create an online personality through her extremely non-followed YouTube channel while trying to gain friends at school. She's awkward but she's trying to discover who she is. She does not exactly know how to be a teenager and really no one does, not even her father (Hamilton). She thinks her single father is geeky and "not cool" and he does all he can to connect with her. Technology and social media is such a new concept and his generation do not know much about it. This is an excellent commentary on the age gap that will always exist no matter whether ten years ago or two years from now. Things are going to go from "cool" to "not cool" and back again from generation to generation. There will never be an instructional book on how to go through this awkward time of a child's life. They have to push through and parents need to support them as much as they can, no matter how "uncool" they may be. Even with technology, middle school is not that different from the awkwardness that the previous generation had. It only has more ways to interact with people to potentially make things more awkward.
The only flaw is with some of the plot lines do not span out in the best way possible. These parts of the plot are about 90% there but they were left open but not in a concluding way. However, though noticeable these are fairly nit-picky.
For anyone who went through an awkward middle school, there will be some part of you in this film. This film has a great story that will bring anyone right back to their middle school days. The acting is great and so is the direction and writing by Burnham. The movie's message brings up interesting questions for any current or future parent that has to deal with the rebelling teenager and social media while also being "uncool." This film is definitely worth checking out in theatres and grabbing on Blu-ray.
Rating: 4.5/5.0 bowties
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