+ Recommended – R, Comedy, Drama
Eighth grade is definitely a time to reflect upon. At the time, the world seemed large and our perspective of life was limited. Hormones were just being discovered as we were preparing ourselves for the biggest shock of our lives: high school. Bo Burnham‘s (the true Vine King) new film, which he wrote and directed, will be out in theatres August 3rd and everyone should make a point to see it.
During the last week of middle school, Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) struggles to make new friends and find the confidence in herself to become the charismatic young woman she so desperately desires. While the plot may seem thin on the surface, I assure you it isn’t. Instead, the film feels much like a character study in which the audience gets to participate in the journey with our protagonist. Burnham was discussing the writing process after our initial screening in which he claimed to write this character in relation to his anxiety rather than as a boy writing a script about a girl; on a side note, you’ll be able to recognize Burnham’s snappy dialogue if you’ve ever watched one of his comedy specials.
It’s the anxiety that is at the forefront of the movie and it servers as the main antagonist. Burnham and co. creatively unveil Kayla’s anxiety in the form of musical accompaniment. Rather than focus on light-stringed instruments, a staple in the indie filmmaking scene, Burnham wanted to capture the craziness of the digital world; he enlisted Anna Merideth, a digital producer to score the film. Merideth solely creates electronic music and when she was asked to score Eighth Grade, she took the opportunity to create a truly jarring soundtrack that you’ll notice just mere seconds after the film starts rolling.
Surly there’s something negative to talk about? Not really. There are a few scenes that go on for maybe a couple seconds too long, but I have to nitpick to find those. Casting could have been a disaster, too; Burnham wanted to cast real teenagers in these roles. But the authenticity is what makes this story special. Burnham exclaimed that he didn’t want to cast confident teenagers in the role of Kayla and instead wanted a young actress that has felt what anxiety can do firsthand. And then there’s Josh Hamilton (Mark Day) who plays Kayla’s dad. With both Fisher and Hamilton, you can feel the resonating passion for acting and their chemistry had emotional weight, while being light. It reminded me of my relationship with my mom.
There are many visual cues occurring in the background of nearly every scene. These could be old, weathered movie tickets, “sale” signs, and even callbacks that older generations would understand. These slight visuals center your attention and connect with your inner child on a level that I haven’t seen in many movies. One a side note: the MPAA rating for Eighth Grade is R. In all honesty, there’s only one scene that warrants a rating like that along with five F-bombs; and even then, it’s a real stretch. The MPAA apparently is afraid of the word “blow-job” which only ever gets mentioned a couple times and never occurs on or off screen. During our screening, we tweeted and asked Burnham and the cast what they thought of the rating. Here is the response we received:
What a response. Elsie Fisher also commented with “..well, life is R-rated.” Go out and support this movie! Even if your kid isn’t 17, take them to Eighth Grade and seat them on the opposite side of the theatre from you. They deserve to have this experience as much as the rest of us, and I would argue even more so. See the movie at the beginning of August and let us know what you think after you see it. Could you relate? I truly think you will.