Friday Film Review - 'Eighth Grade'

Jul 20, 2018

You will fall in love with awkward and totally endearing Kayla Day…. as she navigates the last week of her eighth grade year. Here' s Barb Bretz with your Friday Film Review.

27 year old writer/director Bo Burnham did stand-up comedy for 10 years before debuting at Sundance 2018 with his first film EIGHTH GRADE. At age 16, Burnham videotaped himself performing two comedic songs and posted them on Youtube to share with family. They got reposted to a site called Break.com and became an overnight sensation.

Burnham, who still looks like a high school kid,  knew the internet would play a prime role in his script but had no clue the main character,…..an awkward, anxiety-plagued adolescent would take the form of a 13 year old girl.

Coming of age,during the age, of social media could be a horror film for many young people but for Kayla, played by Elsie Fisher, from the DESPICABLE ME movies, it's a coping strategy. She gives others, and ultimately herself, advice and social tips through daily video clips posted to the internet. There, she has “followers." In in real life, she's the quietest in her class without a circle of friends and is on a mission to break out of her shell during this last week of eighth grade.

Considered a breakout stars at Sundance, Elsie was so authentic in this role, I wanted to give her a hug for the innocent bravado with which she faced some everyday and some unexpected challenges.

Burnham, who claims to have not uttered a complete sentence until he was at least 24, wrote realistic dialogue, then strategically doled it out day by day, to his young actress so she would seem more natural - not “over-memorized."

Josh Hamilton, plays Kayla's single-parent dad, often perplexed trying to understand and be there for his daughter as she navigates her rapidly changing world. Their relationship is antagonistic yet humorous and when she crawls into his lap, sobbing and needing a “daddy hug," I breathed easier knowing she was in good hands going forward.

As far as parents taking youngsters to see this film, at least in the US, it's a “no-go." It got an R rating, probably due to one scene where Kayla googles a specific sex act. There is also a tension-building, back seat “almost” make out scene from which Kayla extricates herself. Both of these scenes are good teaching moments--especially in modeling that saying “NO” is an option.

According to Kayla…...”Growing up can be a little bit scary…and weird. If you're nervous all the time, you have to face your fears and let people know the real you. You never know what's next and that's what makes life exciting, scary and fun!”

EIGHTH GRADE runs 1 hr and 34 minutes and is unfortunately rated R. This is Barbara Bretz with your Friday film review sponsored by the Park City Film Series. See you at the movies!