Run, don’t walk, to “Eighth Grade”

download“Eighth grade,” the movie, by YouTube star Bo Burnham was touching, emotional, realistic and absolutely worth it. My daughter and I went to the theater yesterday and together we laughed, giggled, wiped a few tears and felt awkwardly uncomfortable. The movie is so realistic and the acting by Elsie Fisher as Kayla was perfect. Complete with pimples, baby fat and an unbearable shyness, you felt her pain during her last few weeks at school as she tried to come out of her shell and fit in.

Here’s part of a review in USA Today by Taylor Seely:

Bo Burnham’s ‘Eighth Grade’ isn’t trying to teach you anything, and that’s the beauty of it

The modern coming-of-age movie “Eighth Grade” has been praised by just about every news outlet or magazine.

Written and directed by YouTuber-turned-stand-up-comedian Bo Burnham, the film’s been lauded for its realistic, no-holds-barred look into the teen experience.

It portrays timeless themes like body-image, romance and fitting in. But it also elegantly hones in on the dynamic, and perhaps inseparability, between digital culture and Generation Z. 

The funny thing is that the film is neither for nor against social media. There’s no takeaway lesson that Burnham’s forcing down your throat. He’s just trying to capture real life. 

Essentially, the movie has no agenda, Burnham told All The Moms.

And that’s the beauty of it.

So what’s ‘Eighth Grade’ about?

Note: Spoilers ahead!

The movie opens with teenager Kayla, played by Elsie Fisher, speaking into a camera for her YouTube channel. A little nervous, a little pimply, and a whole lot relatable, she’s talking about how she doesn’t have many likes on her videos yet and how people tend to see her as quiet and shy, even though she’s really outgoing but just doesn’t talk much at school.

During the film, we stay with Kayla for her last few weeks of middle school.

download-1In the Arizona Daily Sun, Dan Stoffel wrote a review: Eighth Grade, a remarkably poignant movie.”

Eighth-grader Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) is shy and quiet around other people, but in her YouTube videos, she gives great advice about how to put yourself out there with confidence. It’s just too bad she can’t practice what she preaches and her attempts to fit in with the cool kids—or with any kids for that matter—crash and burn.

Writer-director Bo Burnham, at the helm of his first feature, takes us into Kayla’s world as she tries to get through the end of the school year with high school on the horizon. Eighth Grade is funny, sad and at times uncomfortable, exactly like poor Kayla, who really wants to come out of her shell but just can’t seem to get things right. Her single dad (Josh Hamilton) tries to help but, like many 13-year-old girls, Kayla doesn’t really want to know what he thinks.

With a simple narrative and no splashy film-making tricks, Burnham has crafted a remarkably poignant movie by relying on the authenticity of Fisher, Hamilton and the rest of the cast of relatively unknowns. The on-screen chemistry between them seems so real it’s almost as if Burnham were filming a reality show but with better (and less obvious) scripting. I thankfully don’t have a great idea of how 13-year-olds talk, but I have to think it’s exactly like these kids. And Eighth Grade stealthily emphasizes how different their world is from when folks like me were growing up. For example, some high schoolers, just four years older than Kayla, talk about how she’s from an entirely different generation than they are. To me, that was a much longer period of time—like the era of black-and-white vs. color television, not the age at which I got Snapchat.

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“Eighth Grade” had my daughter reminiscing about that awkward age before high school when you’re trying to figure out who you are. She remembered going to a couple birthday parties where everyone was on their phones and nobody was talking to each other. The movie did an amazing job showing how social media plays such a big part of our kids’ lives today. Literally, every scene had kids on their phones or computers, sharing and portraying themselves as they wanted to be seen. The movie doesn’t preach about technology but rather shows it realistically. It reminded me of a reality show but with a captivating character, you’re really rooting for. It was a great movie to share with my daughter.

If you’ve seen “Eighth Grade” what are your thoughts about it? 

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