If writer / director Bo Burnham's goal was to put pure insecurity and awkwardness on screen, then he succeeded. If actress Elsie Fisher's goal was to perfectly embody insecurity and awkwardness on screen, then she succeeded too! Unless you were one of the popular kids or was very much socially secure during your time in eighth grade, then the things that happened in this movie must have felt very relatable. Well of course not all of them, but you know what I mean. It also gave you the reminder that you really wouldn't want to go back to that time of your childhood.
Bar none, the main reason to see this film is for Elsie Fisher's performance as Kayla. She is phenomenal in the role. It's almost like she isn't even acting, and her portrayal felt so naturally believable. From her facial reactions, to the way she talks or responds to people, and just how her character handles some awkward scenarios, are all just top notch. She has to be that good, because just about every scene in this film revolves around her, and it's like we're just a fly in the wall observing everything that happens to her.
Before I forget to give him credit, Josh Hamilton is absolutely awesome as Kayla's Dad Mark. Considering my age, I really really liked Mark's role in this film. I really sympathized with him a lot in this movie, and really appreciated the things he said in this, as well as how he acts around Kayla. While I would want to comfort Elsie with a nice hug, I absolutely want to give Mark a fist bump or a high five for being a good Dad to her. The scenes between Kayla and her Dad for me are my most favorite parts of this film.
The narrative of this story is essentially a slice-of-life kind of thing, that spans a one week period. It's not completely a coming-of-age story, but it definitely has that element here. It tries to give us many elements of what it's like to be in that age group, all to serve the purpose of giving us some social commentary about growing up. Some good thematic lessons to be had here for sure. My only gripe there is that it can be a little cliche or derivative in some cases. Yes, it can be argued that it can't be helped, but then there are also some plot turns and characters that seem more patronizing than naturally believable. Opinions may vary there of course.
It might be presumptuous of me to say, but I think kids and parents should watch "Eighth Grade" as a mandatory requirement. This is a good look at teenage life, and a potential informative insight to that age group. Bo Burnham deserves some recognition for making this movie, because I genuinely think there are valuable things to learn here. Plus it's a good movie too!
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