Yet another coming-of-age movie about a girl in school. Eh, if it’s as good as EDGE OF SEVENTEEN, I’m down.
The story looks like it’s about an eighth grader who is on the home stretch of eighth grade and is about enter high school, just trying to get by.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Elsie Fisher, known for DESPICABLE ME (2010) and DESPICABLE ME 2 (2013). In support, we have Josh Hamilton (acting debut; congrats, sir), Jake Ryan (ISLE OF DOGS ), Catherine Oliviere (1 episode of ELEMENTARY [2012 – ongoing]), and Emily Robinson (stuff I’ve never seen or heard of, and the upcoming BEHOLD MY HEART ).
Now for the crew. Writing and directing is Bo Burnham, known for making his feature film debut. Congrats, sir. Composing the socre is Anna Meredith, known for a movie that I’ve never heard of, or seen. The cinematographer is Andrew Wedhe, known for stuff I’ve never seen, or heard of, but seems to have worked with Burnham before. Finally, the editor is Jennifer Lilly, known for stuff I’ve never seen, or heard of.
To be honest, despite my lack of enthusiasm toward this movie, it’s arguably the one I’m most looking forward to. I like smaller movies that are just about life. Good stories about kids growing up, maturing, facing hardship and the uncertainty their futures hold. If done right, movies like this can be hard, funny, and even important. So this movie definitely had me at hello and I can’t wait to see it.
This is my honest opinion of: EIGHTH GRADE
Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) is a teenager on the precipice of high school, just trying to muscle through the last week of eighth grade, which has proven to be difficult for her. Trying to get the attention of a boy she really likes, struggling with her own sexuality and self-image, trying to find excitement in moving on to the next phase of her life, it’s all a struggle, despite doing her best to upload helpful advice to her peers on Youtube.
Now this… was a haunting. But I mean that in the best way possible.
I almost have a hard time calling this a movie, as it’s more of a… reminder. It almost perfectly captures that awkward transition from middle school to high school. The excitement, the indifference, the uncertainty, and even the glimpses of the familiarity. But it does it in a way that feels so raw and real that you can’t help but teleport back in time in your mind and wonder just how much of this was truly fictional. Because I tell ya, it really didn’t feel like it was.
First off, this movie wouldn’t be even close to what it is if it weren’t for the incredible performance given by Fisher. When the reviews say that you’ll fall in love with her, believe it. She is an absolute gem playing Kayla. Kayla is… well, basically, she’s a kid. A young teenager. I know that’s not much of a description, but there’s hardly a better phrase for it. She’s… a contradiction of character. She’s quiet, but she’s outgoing, claiming that her quiet nature at school is a choice, even though we clearly see that she doesn’t seem all that talkative at home, constantly burying her face in her phone. She’s unsure of herself, but she puts herself out there, wholly self-conscious about the way she looks and acts around people, but is always open to making new friends and trying new things, so long as they don’t cross her threshold. If you see the movie, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. She’s dumb enough to say something to get a boy’s attention, but she’s smart enough to know what is and isn’t in her comfort zone. And you know what? All of this, all of what I have been saying… that’s what a young teen is! You know what? I’ll do myself one better. That’s what a person is. Everyone has inconsistencies in our character, no matter how convicted we are in our beliefs. Even the best of us, no matter how much we mean well and try to impart the best advice onto others, it doesn’t always line up with our own actions and Kayla is the perfect embodiment of that level chaos at that volatile and vulnerable age.
Something else I deeply appreciate is the little details too. Kayla’s skin complexion for example. She doesn’t have silky smooth skin, as all teenagers shouldn’t. It’s called puberty. It’s natural. Maybe I’m just an old thirty year old, but teenagers without these skin problems freak me the hell out. Caking on the make-up as if a few zits are on the same level of having your face carved up by sadist. But I’d be lying if imperfections like that weren’t targets for the insensitive and cruel. Man, I feel like I’m not even talking about the movie right now. I think I have some residual problems from my adolescence I need to work out. But it’s true. Fisher is the every-girl. I feel like in lesser movies, the shy people are still played by what would be described as “attractive” people, even though if you looked into the life of a teenager with that similar look, they’re social, active, and outgoing, which can be a staunch contrast to those who may not fit that profile, who know that they don’t, and aren’t as confident in their own behavior, therefore shutting themselves out, even if they don’t mean or want to. So it’s important for that kind of person to have a faithful representation of themselves on the big screen and Fisher nails it perfectly.
Shit, man, I can even relate to the magnetism of a new friend. At some point in the story, Kayla goes on a field trip with some of her peers to a high school for a “High School Shadow Program” where she basically hangs out with a high school student to get a glimpse of what she’s getting into. Because Kayla has few friends, she sees her personal high schooler that she’s following, Olivia (Emily Robinson), as the coolest person ever. And let’s face it, when you’re in a brand new environment, be it a new job or new school, you’ll have that tendency to latch on to the first person who shows you kindness, warmth, and patience. I may not be able to relate to her pacing back and forth, uncontrollably high volume voice, while talking to said kind, warm, and patient person, but I do understand that level of attachment.
She even talks to herself! The occasional byproduct of being an only child, though my self-conversations are significantly more heated and impassioned. What can I say? In an isolated environment, it makes things less quiet and helps sort things out, make sense of a situation, helps deal with emotional reactions, all sorts of reasons. And that’s not even tackling the psychology of it, but I don’t think that’s the point here. It doesn’t happen often with Kayla, but it happens. Also, I really like how every time Aiden (Luke Prael), walks by her, time slows down for her and hilariously appropriate “crush” music starts playing, all over-the-top dramatic and such. I like little touches like this to someone’s character.
Did this movie mention where it took place? I think it did, but I can’t recall where. If memory serves, though, this doesn’t take place in southern California. I say this because Kayla says “like” a lot. Not that kids don’t say that every now and then, but Californians, specifically from the southern area, are notorious for its excessive use. Or maybe it’s become a national thing where saying “like” every other word is just part of American speech. Either way, don’t make a drinking game out of it or you’ll die before the two minute mark.
This movie is also not afraid to make its audience uncomfortable. There’s a bit where Kayla is conversing with Aiden during a school shooting drill and in order to get his attention, she tells him that she has dirty pictures of herself, and suddenly Aiden perks his head up to make eye contact with her, when the entire time he’d been too focused on his phone. And of course, he asks her if she gives blowjobs. Damn… adolescence… not that this was anything I ever wanted advertised when I was that age, but it never gets less insensitive when someone is that forward, no matter how old they are. Still, in the age of the internet, it’s easy to assume that kids are learning about sex at early ages and therefore having sex, or are more in-the-know about it now than ever before just a couple decades ago. Gross as the proposal was, it’s hard to blame the kid. To make matters even more uneasy, Kayla does go on Youtube to research how to give blowjobs (yes, you can actually find that shit on Youtube) and makes an attempt to practice on a banana. Although, it’s pretty hilarious when her dad nearly walks in on her and Kayla’s reaction is to eat the banana, which she doesn’t like. Not that I actually want the question to be answered, but is that how girls learn, or do they just go for it and hope they don’t do a bad job? I guess it’s a matter of kink and comfort. Don’t tell me, I’m fine without the visual confirmation. Still, this movie had guts and it pays off very well.
Overall, this is a great film. As I’ve previously mentioned, I love films that are just about life. A little slice of truth in reality as told by a fictional story. It’s absolutely charming, likable, real, and definitely a movie for both adults and younger teenagers despite its R-rating. So this gets my highest endorsement. Drop what you’re doing and see if you can find this little indie flick in a cinema near you. If not, then I highly recommend checking it out as a rental. Either way, this is one that shouldn’t be missed. Gucci!
My honest rating for EIGHTH GRADE: 5/5
This week’s reviews:
- HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION
- SORRY TO BOTHER YOU
- DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT
- A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM