Eighth Grade Movie Review
“Eighth Grade” is a wonderfully and lovingly created movie about a young girl’s final week in – well – eighth grade. Bo Burnham is best known as being a comedian and a You Tube celebrity. But now he can add to that list being a screenwriter and director. This is his effort to bring some of his own middle school experiences to the big screen, and it goes straight to the head of the class.
Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) is the soon-to-be middle school graduate, ready to take her unsteady steps into high school. During the last week of classes, Kayla is looking for the self-confidence to make her time in eighth grade stand for something. She is voted ‘Most Quiet’ student, which she thinks is just really so wrong. But she is afraid to say anything about it. She creates many You Tube videos about being self-confident and being true to your self. But she is nervous and skittish is many real life situations.
Kayla gets an invite to a classmate’s birthday pool bash. But with a very plain figure and rough skin, she does not feel as pretty as the other girls. Her dad (Josh Hamilton) is always there for her, and being a single dad, he also understands some of the awkwardness of Kayla. She appreciates him, but he is always too clingy and wants to talk about how she is doing. She spends her time mostly staring at her phone and laptop, getting absorbed into social media.
There is a high school ‘shadow’ day, where the eighth graders go to the new school and tag after a senior. She gets paired up with Olivia (Emily Robinson) who is super nice to Kayla and even invites her to hang out at the mall with her friends. She feels even more awkward when she spots her dad hanging around spying on her. Her dad leaves her alone, so she needs to get a ride home from Olivia’s friend. He stops the car and becomes a little too aggressive with her. But she stands up for her self and tells him to stop.
She later has a real heart-to-heart talk with her dad at home. She says how she must disappoint him all the time. But he tells her it is the opposite. Kayla has been the reason he has been able to overcome his own fears and misgivings. Since her mom left when she was young, her dad has been a guiding influence for Kayla. But he tells her that she has taught him how to grow and how to live your best life.
The story is simple and straightforward, but it leaves a lot of room for the subtle display of a young girl’s life becoming richer and deeper. Bo Burnham has constructed a real world of middle school, filled with characters that all seem familiar. But the shining star is Elsie Fisher, who takes the awkward unease of Kayla and makes it a living and breathing thing. Her portrayal is bold and honest, unafraid of being plain and real in a world with too many Secrets from Victoria’s.
The Kayla character reminded me so much of the much younger girl character named Olive from the movie “Little Miss Sunshine”. If Olive had grown up and then went to middle school, I could see her be a person just like Kayla. This movie is also unique, since there are so many other movies that concentrate on high school kids. This might be one of the few movies that center the main character in eighth grade.
*Opens in Phoenix area exclusively at Harkins Camelview @ Fashion Square
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Eighth Grade Review
Eighth Grade Summary
Written and Directed: Bo Burnham
Starring: Elsie Fisher, Emily Robinson, Josh Hamilton
Length: 94 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual material