After seeing the trailer in theatres a few times, I was excited to finally watch Eighth Grade last week. (Let’s not even get into the chaotic logistics of Movie Pass, right now.) I’ll admit the trailers made me uncomfortable at times, but I think it was because of how relatable the material was. I don’t think middle school was an easy experience for anyone, (even the people who made it look like it was.)
Bo Burnham’s writing and directing debut was a standout. Not only did he capture the awkwardness of adolescence, but he did it from a girl’s perspective, and he did it well.
Kayla (played by Elsie Fisher) was painfully brilliant in this role. A girl with few friends, keeping herself company making YouTube videos in her bedroom, after school – full of motivational messages to her subscribers that she hasn’t quite figured out how to practice herself yet.
The tenderness in Kayla’s relationship with her Dad (Josh Hamilton) was heart wrenching. I’ve been a thirteen year old girl, I get where all that angst and attitude is coming from – but to watch her dad try and help her, and communicate with her? Well, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I could see talks I had with my own parents, while I watched theirs on screen. If I’m honest, the bonfire scene made me think of conversations in more recent years because if we’re lucky those relationships with our parents can continue.
I don’t think you had to have social media in middle school to relate to this film. (Though, I’m insanely grateful we only had AOL instant messenger, MySpace, and LiveJournal back then, and we used them all after school.) The tween and early teen years are hard to navigate regardless of what decade you’re living them in. Trying to figure out yourself in a sea of a million other things, and craving acceptance or approval, or just to feel like you’ve found your people can be a lot.
We get to see the excitement unravel on screen when Kayla makes friends with an older crowd, (and the absolute joy when she gets invited to “hang out.”) We get to see her flopping attempts at Googling some subject matter for instructional tips. We see the panic inducing anxiety of figuring out what to do at a pool birthday party with the “cool kids” (an entirely too specific one came to my mind with that scene.) We’re reminded just how young the pressure of sexual encounters really start (and when you’re watching it unfold in front of you, it’s so disturbing because it’s the same girl in other scenes decorating craft projects with glitter glue.)
It was refreshing to see something so real in film, right now. From acne, and smeared mascara to the overuse of the word “like” – everything about this film was spot on. Eighth Grade did what some of the best movies do – found a way for you to go through a roller coaster of emotions, and be smiling when you get off the ride. (For all the angst fueled scenes in the film, there was a perfect mix of ones that made you laugh.) So, If you haven’t seen it yet check out Eighth Grade, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. (You can see the trailer here.)
(Image credit: IMDB.)