As a Bo Burnham fan, "Eighth Grade" has been one of my most anticipated movies of 2018 ever since the comedian and first-time filmmaker tweeted it out last fall. I was fortunate enough to see an early screening of it this past Tuesday and it did not disappoint.
A simple blurb prefacing this film would be something along the lines of 'Follow Kayla (Elsie Fisher) during her last week of eighth grade and all of the shit that goes along with that,' but that doesn't come close to encompassing everything that this movie is about. It captures all of the anxieties and constant struggles that Kayla deals with and exhibits them in a way that's so authentic you can't help but empathize with her. That, paired with all of the cringy moments that result from her hilarious relationship with her single dad (Josh Hamilton) makes this film feel all the more real.
A key part of "Eighth Grade" is the social media component and how it actually affects the lives of teens. Kayla makes these videos giving life advice like "Putting Yourself Out There" and "Gaining Confidence" and posts them on Youtube. She watches makeup tutorials when getting ready for school, and she scrolls through Instagram before falling asleep. It's the first film I've seen that correctly portrays social media as a tool to help kids who feel clueless and alone, rather than to "brainwash us" or whatever the baby boomers are saying.
"Eighth Grade" does an incredible job of really bringing you back to those horrible years and memories that we tried so hard to suppress. Kayla reminds us how life was, and still is, fucking hard. Girls are mean, boys are horny and parents just don't understand anything. And your world is so small. You have little sense of belonging and virtually no scope of importance; something we adults (ha, I'm 20 and cry all the time, but sure) take for granted. One clever aspect of the film is in which scenarios Burnham decides to showcase how eighth graders live in their own world; all while keeping with the current social climate. One scene in particular shows Kayla and her classmates in the middle of a school-shooter drill. "Now kids, what do you do if you hear gunshots?" "Run the other way." Most of us would find this scenario horrifying, but because Kayla is growing up in an age where a school shooting seems to be more of a mainstream phenomenon, she doesn't care. Instead of paying attention, she spends the drill staring at her crush, Aidan, from across the hall.
"Eighth Grade" shows how things that may seem simple to adults are daunting for kids. Things like going to a pool party, making small talk or going on your first date--all of these seemingly little moments when Kayla feels nervous, upset or happy are amplified into bigger moments, because, when you're 13, everything is a big deal. This is something, as an audience member, I didn't know I needed to see. Thank god Bo Burnham did.
If you're wondering, yes I did cry. It started about 10 minutes in and then was on and off until the credits rolled (@jadedill on Twitter for pics). This can all be yours on July 20th! Or, if you're an elitist in New York or Los Angeles, you get to indulge starting Friday, July 13th.
Courtesy of Jade Dill