Eighth Grade

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I’m actually amazed that this movie was written by a man.  Writer/director Bo Burnham seems to have a such a complete grasp of a middle school girl that it is difficult to believe that this is someone who has only one chromosome in common.

As a middle school teacher, I found myself laughing at this movie in many places because there were things that were so realistic and on the nose that I had seen the exact scenes in my own middle school.  It was a impressive feat.  Many times the school setting in these movies fall more to the stereotypical movie school than the realistic setting, but this one is authentic.

Eighth Grade features the story of Kayla (Elsie Fisher), an eighth grader in the last week of school, trying to make it through the remaining days of middle school before becoming a high schooler. She has to face the self-doubt, the potential ridicule, the hormones and everything else that middle school students face daily.

Kayla has one parent, her father Mark (Josh Hamilton), a wonderful dad, who struggles to communicate with his daughter and to compete with the all-powerful and consuming phone.  Kayla posts videos online giving pointers and tidbits of wisdom that she could do well with following herself.

There were some very funny scenes in this movie and there were some extremely tense and nerve-wracking scenes in this move (especially one that takes place in the back of a car).

Elsie Fisher is tremendous here, beautifully bringing Kayla’s worries, fears and anxieties to life on the screen.  She broadcasts her entire life over social media as so many kids do these days, and I had to laugh when the script called for the line, “Nobody uses Facebook anymore” because I have literally heard that comment from middle school girls.

While the film does not really have the typical narrative structure of a movie, the subject matter is akin to that sort of atypical platform.  It is very much like a middle school kid and it fits very well.  The film follows this final week and the events that happen bring great effect to Kayla.

I must say that there is a beautiful scene around a fire between Kayla and her father which is how all parents should deal with their daughters.

Eighth Grade is a wonderful movie that has an authentic tone and feel to it and it deals with real life topics without hyperbole.  It contains several spectacular performances and makes you squirm in your seat more than once.

4.4 stars

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