Courtesy of A24
I'm not sure anyone has captured the trials and tribulations of those awkward middle school years quite like comedian, now turned writer and director, Bo Burnham has with his feature debut: “Eighth Grade.”
The film, told through the perspective of little Kayla (played raw and with the utmost reliability by up and comer Elsie Fisher) as she goes through her final week of middle school and transitions to high school.
We've all been there.
Eighth grade is a weird time in our pubescent adolescences: we're experiencing all the 'fuzzy' things inside our bodies, the opposite sex starts to become increasingly more attractive, and you've that longing to be accepted. Kayla is no different, who posts Youtube videos daily - (“Like or subscribe!) - finds herself caught up in what's the best Snapchat filter and has to sit through those awful, but hilarious, sex-ed videos. All the while dealing with prissy tween's that only stay glued to their Instagrams, and invite Kayla to pool parties because their guilted into it by their mothers. Kids are cruel, then again, so was middle school.
Burnham, no stranger to being the odd man out with his unique style of comedy, infuses his story with deep sincerity. Including Kayla's single father (played by “13 Reason's Why's” Josh Hamilton) as the obsessive, yet loving, parental figure desperately trying to connect with his moody teenager.
That's not all that gets the spotlight. Burnham tackles issues of peer pressure (including a back seat game of “Truth or Dare,”) sexting, and even a staged school shooting to signal the jump into a new age where that makes sense. On it's surface, “Eighth Grade” might look like another coming of age story (which it is) yet Burnham demonstrates a powerful message regarding self-confidence and the willingness to be weird, without overstepping into melodramatic territory. Kayla even has a catch phrase (“Gucci!”) that is guaranteed to become a hashtag sensation amongst those who see it.
“Eighth Grade,” you'll be happy to know, is also very funny. No surprise, as 27 year old Burnham has been writing for quite some time and it's clear the director has pose and a promising career as a filmmaker. The next question needs to be if “Eighth Grade” can ride the tidal wave of Oscar buzz, and, if that be the case, let this be the official start to its campaign.
'Eighth Grade' opens nationwide on July 27th