Eighth Grade is a raw and authentic look at middle school warped in the digital age. Funny, heartbreaking and, above all, real. It’s one of the very best films of 2018 and it receives a five-star review from me.
Eighth Grade is a tour de force for Bo Burnham and his directorial debut, plus a breakout performance by actor Elsie Fisher. You’ll fall in love with this movie and everything about it. Eighth Grade is a bona fide look into the daily lives of middle schoolers, nowadays. So much has changed in the means of technology since I was a kid. It's great how Burnham used that as a technique for his filmmaking, showing how teenagers (growing up in 2018) are plugged into the digital world. This little indie film is heartbreaking, yet funny as hell. The relationship between the father-daughter storyline was brilliantly executed. I wish the film could have kept going as the credits rolled by in front of me. Our story follows thirteen-year-old Kayla (breakout star Elsie Fisher), who endures her final week of middle school, capping off a disastrous eighth-grade year.
While Kayla makes her way through life as a contemporary suburban adolescence, we stick by her side every step of the way. Fingers crossed Eighth Grade doesn't get overshadowed this awards season. It stands tall as one of the best films of 2018 and aces the test. It’s an honest portrayal of what it’s like to be a middle schooler post-2016 election. With the expansion of technology increasing year-by-year, we see these teenager’s lives wrapped around their tiny operating machines. At times, Burnham blends the screen with the visual appeal of Kayla thumbing through her phone. Whether that’s YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat, all of them show her reliance on social media. This brings us into Kayla’s world of acceptance, anxiety, and bliss. "I wanted to talk about anxiety and what it feels like to be alive right now, and what it is to be unsure and nervous. That felt more like middle school than high school to me. I think the country and the culture is going through an eighth-grade moment right now,” Burnham said on writing the story.
As we see, the film's themes include heavy use of social media, along with mental health in Generation Z, sexuality and consent. Burnham even watched YouTubers to learn how Gen Z talks. "I was just trying to capture the staccato way they spoke," he says. "You’re watching someone try to articulate themselves and think out loud while their brains are still growing." In addition to the perfect acting, writing and directing, there’s the score. Burnham fueled the score with electronica music and pizzazz, giving us some hilarious results. Like whenever Kayla saw her crush walk by and we were blasted with loud, booming electronica music. I died of laughter every single time. Actor Josh Hamilton’s on screen presence was also a total delight to watch. Hamilton portrayed Kayla’s dad and incarnated what it’s like being a single father while raising a middle schooler in America.
It’s a difficult, but rich role and Hamilton knocked it out of the park. At times, he’s a goofy father trying to be hip and in other scenes, we see him pouring out deep love for his daughter. The bonfire scene will break your heart, as we witness the father-daughter bond finally connect. Mark (Hamilton) puts aside his ‘dad-jokes’ and finally opens up to Kayla. After Mark is done, we see Kayla take it all in and accept her father’s compassion. While Mark and Kayla hug around the bonfire, a raw open wound inside your heart pours out onto the seats in front of you and towards the screen. Burnham master crafts his little indie film into one of the biggest phenomenon’s put-on film this year. This will be an instant classic for my kid’s generation years down the road. In the end, Burnham and Fisher really capture the realism of middle school warts and all.
Eighth Grade is rated R (Restricted). For language and some sexual material.
In the eyes of the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), middle schooler's portraying middle schoolers on screen is 'too adult' for real-life middle schoolers to see. Seriously? Oh MPAA, you'll never learn. Ignore their petty rating.