Director: Bo Burnham
Writer: Bo Burnham
Starring: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson, Jake Ryan, Luke Prael and more.
Requested Review from Joseph Kelsch!
People, I am so happy I was able to get a viewing of “Eighth Grade” in a theater! This film caught my attention during the recent film festival season as it created waves instantly. After catching wind of this film, I grew heavily interested for a number of reasons. One, written and directed by Bo Burnham. If you are not aware of who Bo Burnham is, well, let’s just say he is a comedian. He has had a number of stand-up specials and his approach is a tad… bizarre. Bo is random, spastic, yet brutally honest and hilarious at the same time. While his approach can be seen as weird and definitely not everyone’s taste, there is a creative genius behind his style and what he talks about. Once I came to realize he was the creative mind behind the coming-of-age film “Eighth Grade”, I knew I was highly likely to fall in love with it. My second reason for my heightened interest is, naturally, the fact that this film is an A24 film. I do not need to go off that anymore as if you are a returning reader to my reviews, you should be well in the know that I am an avid fan of the studio. Now without further ado, it is time for yet another A24 indie film to get Oberrated.
“An introverted teenage girl tries to survive the last week of her disastrous eighth grade year before leaving to start high school.”
Coming-of-age films quite usually follow the same formula time and time again. Outcast/awkward individual struggles with life as they grow through the inevitable ages of childhood, teenage years, to adulthood. Few friends, secret crush, sinister “cool” kid/s, rinse and repeat the formula and you can tag a plethora of films. While “Eighth Grade” obviously follows a similar formula, there is a certain style and approach that almost feels fresh. At the forefront of my statement is the modern Jr. High/High school environment Burnham creates. Today, the youth lives in a social media age. Smart phones, social media, immaculate lives at everyone’s fingertips. Most coming-of-age films have this element to them but not often to the true nature of how it is in today’s world. With “Eighth Grade” we witness Kayla Day, a modern awkward and shy eighth grader, struggle with who she is supposed to be and how does she become “that”. She believes that she has to be “cool”. She has to have that social media perfect life with the perfect skin and the perfect outfits. However, is that what she truly needs to be her or is that status who she has to be? “Eighth Grade” focuses on exactly that; does today’s youth need to be social media perfect in order to find their identity or is there another way? Regardless of the result, this coming-of-age film separates itself from the pack by way of exposing today’s true modern day youth environment which is riddled with viral videos, social media, and a “perfect” life.
Another aspect of this film that was personally delightful for myself was the Bo Burnham flair that was added to the film. As I briefly spoke on in regards to his stand-ups, they are incredibly random and all over the place. Throughout “Eighth Grade” this same sporadic crazy moments happen all over the film subtly yet similarly to his comedic performances. Whether I was cringing at the awkwardness of a moment, laughing at the random outbursts, or simply being dumbfounded by the sudden burst of music or noises, the Burnham Effect comes full blast in the film. For fans of Bo, you can appreciate this element that is spread out throughout the film.
Kudos to the music that plays most times when the character Aiden comes on screen. I ugly cry laughed every time it happened. Straight up Bo Burnham stand-up styled moment.
One aspect of the film heavily influences my rating and that is the consistent average pace the film. From the start, we understand Kayla does vlog videos on life tips. Aside from that, we understand Kayla is an awkward and shy young girl when it comes to human interaction. The film takes these two aspects and moves throughout most of the film on how she could improve her life by way of her own advice, then viewing how she awkwardly does the exact opposite. A large portion of the film moves with these elements and constantly pushes the awkward (but realistic) agenda that a majority of today’s youth, lives with their faces in their phones and struggles to interact on a personal level. I found myself moving along with the story and lightly laughing at the cringe-induced moments. At the rate the film was going, “Eighth Grade” was going to land a 7 or even 6 depending on the final act of the film but that is exactly where this film saved itself. The final act of the film finishing strong as ever and sold me on loving this movie.
“Eighth Grade” transcends beyond the standard coming-of-age film. Not only does the film transcend its own genre but it also shows how today’s youth can transcend beyond what is expected of them and shows that they can achieve their true potential. Our kids are more than their phone. They are more than the struggle they experience with personal interaction. They are more than their social media profile. They have the capability to find themselves and who they can be, it simply just takes time and the answers will definitely not be what they see on their screens.
A24 has produced yet another inevitable indie classic and Bo Burnham further proves he is the genius I see him as. “Eighth Grade” is well worth the watch to see a unique and realistic look at the modern day youth. However it is probably not the most re-watchable film of the A24 archives, personally at least, due to its pacing. If the comedy was a bit more animated and memorable versus the dry style Burnham chooses to go with, my statement would change. Nonetheless, that hardly takes away anything major from the quality of the film.