Dear readers, surely you know that today’s youth carry a huge responsibility ahead of themselves that often goes against their personal commitment to please people, a struggle that stems from their pressures to fit in. It’s a difficult task to explore the crisis kids today face, yet first-time director Bo Burnham miraculously succeeded!
Although you first may wonder, “is this R-rated work teen-appropriate?” Well, for fair warning, most teenagers might be too young to maturely discuss the more adult content (language, blow jobs), although I still encourage anyone older than eighteen to watch Eighth Grade because it is filled with wisdom about what it’s really like to grow up in the millennial age.
Clever filmmaking tricks seldom strive to wow us, its most ambitious technique being its simple focus on the glowing screen of the protagonist, eighth-grader Kayla. After dad jump-scares her while she scrolls through Instagram, Kayla’s phone cracks quite heavily, and your view of her social media presence turns disturbed for the remainder of the run time. When not filtered through the internet, Kayla instead comes off as nothing short of awkward. No Hollywood plastering here: the intense facial focus amplifies Kayla’s countable zits on her face.
Her increased pressures compel Kayla to post a series of YouTube advice videos, one of which opens the feature much like the first scene of Annie Hall. She gives some great advice, including how the “school you” differentiates the “pool you” and the “movie you,” so you must reach out to let everyone know the full “real you,” a point she proves by going out to sing karaoke despite her nervousness. Then each video ends with her signature phrase, “Gucci!” Except does anybody watch her vlog? It doesn’t matter a whole lot anyway, because Kayla doesn’t make her videos because others need advice, but because she must hear herself think as she goes through these troubles herself.
Away from social media, Kayla follows a makeup tutorial in front of her motivational sticky note-bordered mirror, so that she can then post it on Instagram as a lame post-makeup-application “just woke up like this” post. Sadly though, it can’t compensate for her class voting her, “most quiet.” As her last week of middle school drags on, you look past her embodiment through significant mundaneness, particularly with how her earbud music overpowers her dad’s voice. True to that style, raucous sound plays before she enters dangerous territory of a birthday party seeing her swimsuit body.
To more brilliant results, the dialogue complements maturation through awkward conversations, such as Kayla’s hilarious discomfort of a blow job tutorial. Whether it’s the dabbing old principal, or how various social media platforms define middle schoolers from high schoolers, or the single most realistic first date on film ever, humor stays consistent. But then all humor stops suddenly altogether in a clear #MeToo moment that forces you to hold your breath out of fear. So, jokes aside, this complete ninety-three-minute outline of puberty development captures the entire transitional stage thanks to the perfect editing. You never lose track of time, even if the image lingers on Kayla’s disconnect from her father.
Although to be fair of what this movie does wrong, little is learned about one boy who has a crush on Kayla. Another guy Kayla adores also comes off too one-dimensional, along with the stereotypical class beauty queen Kayla idolizes. Though somehow, those three characters have stronger presence than God, who here is nothing but a big missed opportunity to express Kayla’s existential crisis, as evidenced by a meaningful but skimmed over scene when she prays out of tremendous conflicting fear.
Yet this generalization of certain teenage tropes works to its advantage as it makes you naturally want to avoid whatever traits you see. A fine example happens during a conversation Kayla has with the beauty queen’s mom; she focuses on the daughter instead of the mother, revealing Kayla’s ideal wants away from the generational gap. These tight facial closeups are the secret to showing the way kids at that age always believe eighth grade is the end of everything. Trust me, Kayla’s maturation process by the end strikes your feels hard, especially once you hear her father’s sincere monologue in front of a soft campfire glow.
I find it hilarious how earlier this year, Hollywood legend Steven Spielberg phoned in a celebration of reality through a motion picture meant to glamorize pop culture, yet here, a complete nobody creates a far superior work which truly does celebrate reality over technology. Therefore friends, I guarantee Kayla will help you remember eighth grade fondly from now on forward. Hang tight everyone, Gucci!
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Debruge, Peter. “Film Review: ‘Eighth Grade’.” Digital image. Variety. Wordpress, 20 Jan 2018. Web. <https://variety.com/2018/film/reviews/eighth-grade-review-1202670924/>.
Eighth Grade. A24. Web. <http://eighthgrade.movie/>.