Eighth Grade

Ugh, the agony of being a middle-schooler. Kayla is a quiet kid being raised by a single dad. She has no close friends and drifts through her school days not being noticed by anyone. She reaches out to the world through her inspirational YouTube videos (“The topic of today’s video is being yourself”), but nobody is watching. She desperately wants to connect, to be appreciated by someone who isn’t just her dad (“If people would talk to me at school, they would find out that I am really funny and cool and talkative”). This is the first feature film by writer/director Bo Burnham (a stand-up comedian and former teen YouTube sensation!), who refreshingly puts the adolescent girl perspective front and center, unfiltered by Instagram. All the problems of young teenhood are on display here: awkward social skills, skin problems, trying too hard, and feeling too much. Elsie Fisher as Kayla is both extraordinary and completely unremarkable. The film is funny and sad and excruciating and hopeful. Eighth grade is the worst; Eighth Grade the movie is wonderful. Winner of best film and best actress for Fisher at this year’s SIFF. (GILLIAN ANDERSON)

Alas, no actual eighth graders can see this film without going with one of their parents (awesome!), since Bo Burnham likes the swears and Eighth Grade is rated ‘R.’ But Burnham’s film succeeds in other ways: While Eighth Grade starts off feeling just like the real eighth grade—interminable—it takes a similar path to the real experience of growing up, with the endless awfulness gradually lifting as Kayla gains perspective. It’s beautifully done. There are also some shining, subtle moments of character interplay—like the tension surrounding Kennedy (Catherine Oliviere), a popular girl in Kayla’s orbit—that I wish we could have seen extended to the character of Kayla herself. Unfortunately, Kayla’s a big ol’ zero. Burnham wrote Eighth Grade about his own youth, then swapped in a girl character to spice it up, and I’ll just call that what it is: wearing girlhood like a costume to make a familiar story more interesting. (SUZETTE SMITH)

AMC and Regal Tickets here.
Ark Lodge Cinemas tickets here.
Showtimes & Tickets

Trailer

Credits
Director
Bo Burnham
Cast
Elsie Fisher, Daniel Zolghadri, Fred Hechinger