Dir; Bo Burnham. Starring; Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson. R. Color. 93 min.
“Eighth Grade” is a blueprint example of a “who-woulda-thought” type of movie. Who-woulda-thought that adults could be taught more about life by a child than their colleagues? Who-woulda-thought that kids can learn a thing or two from adults if they unplug both literally and figuratively for a few minutes. Who-woulda-thought the most honest movie of the year about a young girl growing up would be written and directed by a silly second tier comic named Bo Burnham? Well it is. “Eighth Grade” is perhaps the years most unlikely miracle.
Elsie Fisher is an absolute standout as Kayla. The film opens with her recording another episode for her YouTube channel the same way that so many teenagers have tried to become famous with in the era of social media. It is all about likes. Her single parent father Mark (Josh Hamilton) does everything he can to relate to the daughter he loves but struggles to get her to turn off her phone for ten minutes while having dinner. Kayla is at that awkward stage for Mark where he still wants to visit her in her room and say good night without knocking while all she wants is space.
At school, Kayla is not one of the more popular girls, winning the “most quiet award” in the yearbook, but she tries her best. The swooned after cool chick Kennedy (Catherine Oliviere) has an upcoming birthday party and her plastic-ish mom invites Kayla to the party because she has a secret “old people” crush on Mark. Of course Kennedy has no desire to have a pimple-faced, non-stick figured bodied, awkward girl like Kayla to attend her perfect people birthday, but her mother insists. Kayla decides to go after finding out that her heartthrob crush Aiden (Luke Prael) will be there. Aiden is a far bigger local internet sensation because of videos showing him flexing his “muscles”. The pool party does not go as planned, but Kayla is able to make friends with another outcast as they both feel like fans on the sidelines of a Super Bowl game type of birthday.
The best section of the film comes when Kayla and the rest of her graduating class go to shadow other students for a day at the high school they are preparing to attend in the fall. The young group is marched in and mocked in the slightest of ways so the teachers do not notice because high school students are sneakier with their cruelty. Kayla gets lucky. She is assigned to shadow a genuinely kind young lady in Olivia (Emily Robinson), a person more honored to show a new friend the ropes instead of being caught up in how much of a hassle it is to babysit some stupid middle school student.
A few days later, Olivia invites Kayla to join her and other high school kids at the foodcourt at the local mall. She goes and is driven home by a “cool” boy who has an agenda. Olivia attempts to protect Kayla subversively because she actually cares for her and knows what this boy wants, but has to let Kayla make her own decisions. Needless to say Kayla is placed in an awkward position with a high school boy who wants to have his penis touched by a hand other than his. It is an experience no young lady should go through but sadly most do.
What makes “Eighth Grade” so good is that it lays it all out on the line. There is nothing fake about it. The main character speaks like a child who’s never been in a high school English class instead of sounding like an adult wrote the script. It is realistic.
Parents who roll their eyes at social media, go back and think about the silly things you were obsessed with whether it be the latest 8-tracks or nice cars or having to see what the number one video was on TRL. The “Gucci” eye symbol Kayla uses in her videos is no more or less intelligent than putting up an L “loser” symbol on your forehead the way my generation did. For those growing up, this film is a lesson in how to treat people. Having the most likes is cool. Affecting a persons life in a positive way is cooler. For adults, “Eighth Grade” is a reminder that when you roll your eyes as your son or daughter is constantly snap chatting you are also rolling your eyes at the younger version of yourself.
Suck Factor: 1out of 7 (7 means your movie really SUCKS!)
Written by Byrd
The SUCK FACTOR, how it works. We have flipped the rating system upside down. If a film is classic, it gets a 0. Meaning that movie has 0 SUCKS. If a film is complete trash you must avoid at all costs, it gets a 7, meaning this movie really SUCKS!