Review: Eighth Grade (Montclair Film Festival)


Title: Eighth Grade
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Director: Bo Burnham
Starring: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton
Runtime: 1 hr 34 min

What It Is: This is about a shy eighth grader named Kayla (Fisher). It follows her last two weeks of middle school before she enters high school. You see her struggles with self-esteem, being insecure, trying to fit in with the crowd. She’s also an aspiring YouTube creator that makes videos that are made to motivate kids her age about the pressures of life. She lives with her single dad (Hamilton) who tries to be the best father he can. While at the same time trying to tell Kayla to be proud of this moment.

What I Think: Bo Burnham’s directorial debut is one of the best coming-of-age films I’ve seen since Lady Bird. What he does here is to tell this story about Kayla and tells it in a very authentic way. You see her try to fit in with the crowd, keep up with the latest trends on social media, and learn more about herself as she makes the transition from middle school to high school. There’s also some awkward dialogue that feels right for this character. She says “umm” and “ah” a lot in her sentences when she talks with kids she’s not familiar with. There’s also a moment between  Kayla and her dad Mark that feels so poignant that I nearly cried. It’s when they talk outside next to a fire-pit and her dad tells her that she loves her no matter what. Even if she has moments of awkwardness, Mark says he’s proud of who she became to be. Bo Burnham’s direction feels special. He doesn’t try to do too much. He just tells the story of Kayla in a way that feels relatable and at times it shows the authenticity of what it’s like to be a teenager in eighth grade.

My Grade: A-, The only problem I had was the third act does drag at times. At only 94 minutes, it’s a well told and well-edited film. Also, the score by Anna Meredith is one of my favorite scores of the year. It has an electronic feel where at times can get loud during some moments of catharsis. It’s one of my favorite films of 2018 so far. Has one of the best female performances of the year by Elsie Fisher. And Bo Burnham looks like he has a bright future ahead of him. I can’t wait to see what he does for his next film.

Eighth Grade will have a limited theatrical release by A24 on July 13th.

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