That scene will be discussed for awhile, and that’s exactly why EIGHTH GRADE works so well. Bo Burnham’s directorial debut is equal parts uncomfortably realistic and impossibly wholesome (albeit while dealing with some serious themes), and it will affect you like no other movie this summer.
Elsie Fisher (Agnes, DESPICABLE ME) delivers a career-making performance as Kayla Day; a shy teenage girl on the brink of both an emotional breakdown and high school. Kayla’s life is a mess without being a walking nightmare, and Burnham’s script perfectly captures a world that is complex and ever evolving. Clichés are thankfully pushed to the side in favor of authentic dialogue and moments that feel as genuine as they are terrifying.
EIGHTH GRADE is a coming-of-age tale that treats its main character — a 13-year-old girl battling social anxiety — as an actual person (and not a screenwriter’s tailored mouthpiece). Kayla is intelligent and surprisingly introspective without having an overly-impressive vocabulary or sense of wit, and Fisher’s remarkable believability helps create a character the audience will either relate to or empathize with thoroughly.
“Cringy” is the perfect word to describe the majority of this film — and that is meant as a huge compliment. From a ‘I’m hip and trendy’ school principal to an overprotective dad (played lovingly by Josh Hamilton), each beat is note perfect and welcomed. The dark humor and awkwardness of many scenes will leave you smiling and nervously on edge; and the attention to details, big and small, will hit home when you least expect it.
EIGHTH GRADE safely falls into the category of being a ‘must see’ for virtually anyone; which makes the MPAA’s rating system look even more outdated and in need of repair than normal. GRADE getting an R (for language and some sexual material) feels especially faulty at a time when movies like THE MEG and SLENDER MAN manage to walk away with PG-13 ratings. Hopefully, this just means that more parents will be forced to take their kids to go see EIGHTH GRADE… even if they are asked to sit on the opposite side of the theater.
Four and a Half out of Five Beers.