Saturday, July 28, 2018

Movie Review: "Eighth Grade" (2018)

Director: Bo Burnham
Year: 2018
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

A socially awkward teen tries to navigate her last week of 8th grade, prepares for high school, and reflects on what a disaster middle school has been for her.
"I am always just so unbelievably happy that I get to be your dad." (Image Source)
The time you spend in middle school will be some of the most awkward years of your life, especially if you're an introvert. "Eighth Grade" is the feature film writing and directorial debut of Bo Burnham, who is best known for his work as a stand-up comedian. This film is about the last week of middle school for an introverted 13-year-old girl named Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher). Kayla is really not much different than most of the kids her age. She is always on her phone taking Snapchat pictures with funny filters, listening to music and ignoring her dad, stalking her crush on Instagram, and making self-help/advice-related YouTube videos. Outside of the online world, her social awkwardness and lack of confidence make it difficult for her to make friends and connect with other people. For this last week of eighth grade, she tries desperately to break through the walls of shyness so she can finish the school year right and enter high school with a new hope that she has all but lost over her middle school experience.
"You can't be brave without being scared." (Image Source)
It is hard to think of a movie that better encapsulates the thorny and tricky hormonal state of constant embarrassment that we call middle school. "Eighth Grade" takes a brutally honest, devastatingly relatable look at what it's like to grow up in the social media age where there is a stark difference between who you are in reality and the online persona that you chose to project to the world. We relate and share in that feeling of uncertainty and discomfort Kayla feels every single day of her life. We laugh and squirm in our seats at the uncomfortable moments she encounters as she tries to talk to her crush or chat with the girls she wants to befriend. We empathize with what she is going through as a teen who wants to assert herself and prove that she's not shy and anxious. We want to give her a massive bear-hug as she paces around her room giving herself a pep talk, telling her to be herself and be confident. Kayla lives in constant fear that one wrong move will "make her life be over." She feels like she is a disappointment at times, but also kind of sort of knows who she is deep down inside, even if her peers don't know or care enough to know her.

Elsie Fisher gives a fantastic performance in this film. Everything about it is magnificent. It's not just in the way she delivers her dialogue and in her interactions with other characters, but in the way she walks, how she carries herself, and the way she emotes her nuanced facial expressions. You see her at school as a kid who is slightly hunched-over, is reserved and a little self-conscious, enveloped by the thoughts that plague her as she overthinks every interaction she has. She is always riddled with anxiety and second-guessing herself. Then, you see her on her YouTube channel where she is sitting up straight and confident, projecting her voice, and faking that she has it all figured out. This is one of the best breakthrough performances we've ever seen, and it is also one of the best performances of the year to be sure. Josh Hamilton also nails his role as Kayla's dad Mark, a semi-protective, semi-weird father who clearly loves his daughter and sees how cool she is even if she can't see it. He gets to give a colossally moving speech here that rivals the one we saw in 2017's "Call Me By Your Name."
"Growing up will eventually get really good." (Image Source)
Bo Burnham has made an instant classic with "Eighth Grade." From the weird social interactions to the obsession with social media to the revelatory nature of the script as a whole, his writing is sharp and perfect. The acting is some of the best we have seen this year. The score is eclectic and fitting. The direction is intimate. Man, we really, really loved this movie. It shows us that though many things change, some things remain the same, mainly that middle school can suck for a lot of kids. This film is both funny and heartfelt and is definitely a must see despite being rated-R for some mature themes. It is a film that may help kids and parent understand each other better in our ever-evolving world. Please give this film your time and your money!

My Rating: 9.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 9/10
IMDB's Rating: ~8.2/10
RT Rating: ~98%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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