Doesn't everyone just look back on their middle school years and just think "Man, those were great times" and reminisce on how NOT socially awkward they were?
Yeah, me neither.
But, if you are looking for an adequate transportation into the awkward and weird transition period that is middle school, then look no further because "Eighth Grade" will help you not only relive those times but give you a specific insight into one particular eighth grader, Kayla Day.
"Eighth Grade" is written and directed by Bo Burnham and stars Elsie Fisher as Kayla, an awkward, shy eighth grader who continually makes self-help videos on her YouTube channel that even she has a hard time following.
Elsie is just fantastic in this film and really steps her game up to a whole new level. She perfectly portrays the shy adolescent without being overtly shy to make it clear to the audience that she is acting. Bo Burnham talked about this during a Q&A, and it definitely sticks out on screen.
The film also stars Josh Hamilton as Kayla's dad, and I feel he might have the most underrated performance of the year thus far. He plays that awkward father figure that makes dad jokes 24/7 quite seamlessly. He also had a monologue in the third act that was very reminiscent of the dad from "Call Me By Your Name." I don't think there's much of a chance that Hamilton will get recognized for his role, which is quite unfortunate, but I think he definitely shows some great acting chops playing a character that's incredibly hard to pull off.
Where I feel the film is the strongest is in its writing. There are sequences where Kayla's crush, Aiden, is pictured on screen, and a deep bass dubstep tune is played, which perfect and implicitly resembles the feeling one gets when they see their crush across the room. It's just proof of Burnham's excellent writing when you are able to convey a very specific emotion with just images and some electronic music.
Hilariously, of course, the athletic, popular middle school boy just happens to be wearing a Golden State Warriors Stephen Curry jersey, easily the biggest bandwagon team of all time. Definitely resembles that of a middle schooler.
Burnham also really pushes the comedic aspect of middle school, but the great thing is that it doesn't take away from the emotional appeal of the film. I was able to easily laugh while also being receptive to the plot details that are intended to emotionally stir. Mixing tones like this is incredibly hard to do and shows great skill in terms of writing.
In terms of themes, I feel like one of the BIGGEST points that Burnham is trying to make is that social media can devalue our actual interaction immensely. We frequently see throughout the film that Kayla has no trouble talking on video and posting it to YouTube, taking Snapchats or even interacting on Instagram, but she struggles mightily with making friends and making conversation in real life.
In a world where social media can have so much influence on one's popularity, Kayla can't seem to differentiate between what is online and what is real life. In a moment of symbolism, Kayla is scrolling through Twitter and her screen is cracked. After a few seconds, she yelps in pain, as her thumb starts to bleed due to her phone screen, figuratively exclaiming how detrimental social media can be to us.
IS IT WORTH IT?
Overall, I really enjoyed "Eighth Grade." It's yet another great showing from A24, a studio that brought us "The Disaster Artist," "Lady Bird," and "Hereditary." With still quite a few A24 films to be released this year, I'm really excited for where this studio will go, and if they can take their films to new heights.
"Eighth Grade" is an excellent film with great acting, immersive writing, and boast an ability to transport you back to your 13-year-old self.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10, Worth It