Review: 3 stars out of 4
by Manuel Reynoso
Eighth Grade is a 2018 comedy drama, written and directed by Bo Burnham, marking his directorial debut. Starring Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, and Emily Robinson. Eighth Grade follows Kayla Day, a soon to be high schooler, and her life as she navigates through a confusing time of transition.
Dizzyingly awkward, painfully honest, and nauseatingly cringey; pretty much exactly how I remember my last year in middle school. For us millennials and generation Zers, that’s precisely why this film is so appealing. It validates a time in every young person’s life that we fondly look back on and think, “ What the hell was I thinking?” Eighth Grade was Bo Burnham’s first dive into narrative-driven film, and he killed it.
Bo Burnham’s use of unknown actors is something I’ve been itching to see more of in Hollywood. Elsie Fisher’s performance was great and as were many of her co-stars. Having new unknown actors is such an easy way to circumvent the problem of having experience adults play the role of children. This added authenticity really goes a long way to improve the experience and help the viewer’s immersion.
However, Bo Burnham’s screenplay was really the star of the show here. I haven’t seen other media really do justice to the youth culture of Gen Zers quite like Eighth Grade. Awkward parental dabbing, Fortnite dances, and vlogging, it’s all there and just as silly as it looks in our lives. In the middle of all that though, this is a story of encouragement. A story that we all persevere through this time and eventually hit our stride. Kayla Day is so easy to root for, so easy to care for, because she so perfectly encapsulates that vulnerable time in everyone’s life.
With all that said, the biggest obstacle to Eighth Grade’s success is really itself. It’s an awkward story, about awkward teenagers, in an awkward time in their life. I can’t help but ask myself who really is this film for? An R rated film targeted specifically for middle schoolers,that spends as much time poking fun at youth culture as it does celebrate it. That’s a hard sell. Really, I feel the film seems to be best suited for us young adults who just love to commiserate. Reminiscing about how terrible of a time middle school was is a fun ride, but not one that everyone wants to go on. It’s a great film, that much is clear, but it very much isn’t for everyone. Rated R 1h34m