It seems like we’re are at the peak of seeing some fantastic movies that have come from the coming-of-age genre this decade. Why’s that? Because I’m always impressed with how it can become relatable to the main character. While sitting through the latest indie flick Eighth Grade, it will make you think about the middle school era of your life and just makes you think so much about yourself.
What’s the Story?: Socially awkward 13-year-old Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) is known as an introvert when she’s in school, but she’s trying to do what she can to get through her last week of the eighth grade before transitioning into high school.
Former YouTuber turned comedian Bo Burnham makes his directorial debut here. He has never been on my radar before, but after watching his stand-up specials, he’s definitely one of the best comedic talents out there not just because he’s hilarious, but he incorporates music into his routines that make it even more awesome. So, when it comes to this first movie that came out at Sundance, it didn’t look that bad, but awfully worried that this won’t live up to the praise it’s been receiving. Wrong! Eighth Grade is one of the best movies of 2018 that kept my attention and it made me question how I was eight years ago before starting high school.
Who would’ve thought that 27-year-old Burnham’s first movie was gonna be about a lonely teenager in school? Most would assume that it would’ve been a straight-forward comedy, but it isn’t. But the signature style he decided to take on for this never fell fake in all of its 92-minute runtime. Most teen movies take place in high school with the adolescence care package of drugs, sex, and finding yourself in between. But he doesn’t take it that way in middle school, which is pretty rare. The dialogue sounds really natural and it doesn’t come off as too Hollywood. He even has a montage that can be seen as visual storytelling of Kayla going through her twitter timeline and doing a Buzzfeed quiz (like most kids at that age would do) with Enya’s “Orinoco Flow” in the background. If Burnham doesn’t get any love for his screenplay by the time the Oscars come around, somebody’s gonna pay.
And the award for “Most Relatable Character of 2018” goes to… Kayla. Fisher’s brought a lot of authenticity into her performance and it’s a breakthrough role that’s gonna be remembered as time goes on. It’s a great thing when they cast an actual teenage girl so it can make the film authentic. Posting motivational YouTube videos on being confident, making friends, and speaking up doesn’t have many views, but tries what she can to be popular and giving constructive advice about the kind of person she wants to be when trying to become socially active. Fun Fact: She provided the voice of Agnes in the first two Despicable Me films. Fascinating, right? But seriously, Fisher’s performance is remarkable.
She’s also at the age her being closed off by her single dad (a terrific Josh Hamilton) is the norm even when he’s trying to have a conversation with her when she’s not on her phone or just being in that awkward stage in her life. But you can see that the relationship between them is personal and caring enough to hopefully understand when he’s trying to connect with her by being funny.
Nearly everybody would agree that middle school wasn’t the best time. Around the time I was there, social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, and I believe Instagram was popular in school, but it wasn’t until Senior year of high school I got the former. For me, I don’t remember enjoying those three years that much. Being confident wasn’t my bread and butter because while I had my core group of friends, I too was introvert since I’m was shy type and most of the people I went to school with were annoying. But for the people who did enjoy those times can still find something to relate to. Because of Burnham attempt to have the story focus on Kayla, we sympathize with Kayla, everything moves forward in time where even though you didn’t have any friends, there’s a chance you’ll make some in the future.
Really, the one problem that some may have while watching Eighth Grade is that it can delve into that awkwardness for a few scenes that can make or break a moment that might feel uncomfortable and cringy. Some that land on the hilarious side, while the other is just concerning.
Eighth Grade didn’t leave me in tears after it ended, but it made me realize that I wished I made me last year of middle school better than what I experienced. Is this considered year’s Edge of Seventeen? Or this year’s Lady Bird? Why not both? Even if you can’t relate to Kayla, you honestly feel sorry for her when she’s trying to stand out and you want to become friends with her. With little hesitation going into this thinking it’s only gonna be good, not great, A24 comes again with another insightful hit. For a year that’s been having a lot of actors transitioning into the directing, Eighth Grade is the best by far that should be getting a lot more recognition when comes around Oscar season. Gucci!
Eighth Grade truly captures an honest and outstanding coming-of-age dramedy that offers much more relatable feelings as one might imagine thanks to the brilliant mind of writer-director Bo Burnham and a phenomenal performance from Elsie Fisher. Grade: A