- Bo Burnham’s “Eighth Grade” is an instant classic.
- Lead actress Elsie Fisher gives a performance that completely sucks you into the story, regardless how long ago you were a teenager.
If you’re tired of the constant explosions and superheroes most of the summer movies have offered, then this is a good weekend to take a break and head back to high school.
I know, life may have been pretty complicated in those days – and if you’re currently going through high school, hang in there, it gets better – but there’s something about watching a movie depiction of it that just brings a lot of joy … and reflection.
The high school genre has its fair share of classics: “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” “American Pie,” “Mean Girls,” anything by John Hughes. But those all feel like they were made by a bunch of adults far removed from adolescence. And that’s why “Eighth Grade” will go down as a special movie. It feels like it was made by someone who is currently living it.
Produced and released by A24 (“Moonlight,” “Lady Bird”), the movie is the brainchild of its 27-year-old writer-director Bo Burnham, who is known for his mix of comedy and music that first found fandom on YouTube.
To look back on the anxieties of transitioning from middle school to high school, Burnham told the story through the character Kayla (played by Elsie Fisher of “Despicable Me” fame). She’s a teen who has the persona in her YouTube videos of a girl who has nothing but confidence, but in reality is filled with anxiety and just can’t seem to make friends.
We follow Kayla as she ends middle school and dreams of high school being so much better. From a pool party to high school orientation, to a first date, the experiences Kayla goes through hit home regardless if you left your teens decades ago or just days ago.
And the way Burnham tells the story – with zero known actors (well, indie fans will recognise Kayla’s dad, Josh Hamilton) and tight stedicam shots – it makes you think you’re watching a documentary instead of a fiction film.
But what really brings home the movie is the performance by Fisher. The vulnerability she displays is the lifeblood of the movie and immediately sucks you into the story.
It currently has a 98% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes.
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