“But it’s like, being yourself is, like, not changing yourself to impress someone else”Review by Lewis Goodall
Gonna say right off the bat, not the biggest fan of Bo Burham. I never really watched his vines and his stand up wasn’t really my flavour, which is strange because I love nonsense but it didn’t hit home. I guess I’m just jealous, im jealous that my vine account didnt take off. I guess people pretending to be half owl wasnt what people found funny, maybe i shouldve sung a song about being half owl then i wouldve been Bo Burnham, just with a rotating head and appitete for mice. In case this just seems like a random rant on Bo Burham, he actually directed this film and if you dont know who he is then the best way to explain him is that he does a stand up routine of him pretending to masturbate. Now I ACTAULLY masturbate and I haven’t directed a film!? What the hell??
Eighth Grade is the coming of age story for today’s generation. Kayla (Elsie Fisher), is trying to survive the final week of, you’ve guessed it, eighth grade. Being a teenager in today’s generation, Kayla makes YouTube videos to offer advice and tips on how to get through life. The subject of her videos surround the idea of being confident and being yourself but finds it hard to implement her own tips and tricks into the real world.
Although I’m not a fan of Bo Burnham’s stand up, I was still intrigued to see his style of filmmaking, I’m always up for seeing peoples first films because usually you can just tell more love goes into it, its usually filled with a lot of raw emotion and you can certainly see that here. Now this film is definitely geared towards today’s generation with its references and general attitude. Being set during Kaylas last week of eighth grade, which is apparently the last year of middle school, it’s all based on life in 2017 when memes were hot and the start of people not using Facebook anymore. A lot of the film Is surrounded around being relatable to millennials and it definitely hits hard in that aspect.
I feel this is a film anyone can get on board with but where this films shines would be for people whose faces are stuck to their phone. I would go are far as saying that this film is pretty important for anyone who spends most of their time online. Kayla struggles with a lot of cliche teenage struggles like crushing on a boy out of her league or being the nerd of the school, but these fall under the umbrella of her lack of confidence and anxiety. Kayla is confident whilst filming her YouTube videos but in the real life she is overshadowed in groups of people, having her attempts at conversations shot down. Her awkwardness comes across, if anything too well. I felt secondhand embarrassment watching her trying to include herself in a group of people but in a way I felt annoyingly related to. Watching Kayla display her poor social skills is something I feel a lot of kids can relate to and it Is just portrayed perfectly. Of course there are those kids in schools who somehow have thousands of followers because they’re the popular ones but this film shows the side of the generation that are also trying to make a name for themselves online which is why I feel this film will hit hard with a lot of people who are in the same rickety boat, but ‘Eigth Grade’ tell those kids “you be yourself, you keep doing you and be proud of yourself in what you pursue. Dont care what other people think, fuck em”.
Every inch of this film oozes cringe sauce but in the most perfect way. It’s in the small details, and one detail that actually was annoying but it was so accurate. Kayla would finish all her YouTube videos with saying ‘Gucci’ and throwing up some weird hand sign. Although it was annoying because its Gucci, it was just so spot on to kids who try make their own cringey content and will say something just horrific because at the time they thought it was cool. It was just too spot on. That’s kind of the whole vibe for the film in general, it was all just annoyingly accurate to today’s life which is why I feels it’s an important coming of age film for anyone whose feels they arent important.
I feel I haven’t really talked about anything else in the film apart from how relatable it is so let’s get on that. This film is just fun to watch, particularly the music which has to be one of my favourite aspects of this film. Whether it’s just great music or perfectly timed, all of it was a pleasure to my ears, they vibrated with joy everytime the soundtrack kicked in. Kudos to the editing for this film, through the music and general transitions, all of it was just fantastic to watch and even though you could say a lot of the story could be considered typical or cliche, just in the way you follow Kayla along her journey is great. You become attached to this character and way genuinely panicking on her behalf during one scene and that shows the mark of when a film hits home.
Bo Burnham being a comedian and all, of course there would have to be some comedy used to fertilise this film flower. I was expecting the comedy to match his stand up but this is a very different style to what I was expecting. I was expecting, super nonsensical jokes but honestly the humour was spot on to fit the situation, with one scene in particular really ticklingthe agile gland of any viewer. It was that good blend in the film of having the funny times in there but not enough to smother the serious times as well, good blend, good time.
Overall the characters are great, a special shout out to Kaylas dad who comes across as creepy in a sense but overly a really sweet, genuine guy, with one moment actually making be Involuntarily going “aaaaw” out loud when he talked about how he has a note page on his phone of things Kalya talks about so he can keep track of her likes and dislikes, I mean c’mon! How can you not aaaaw at that?? He was great, the minor roles were also spot on, plus on a technical stand point this film bursts with love and effort. Only minor hitches in the story being pretty cliche but other than that, not a bad first attempt at writing and directing for someone who mimes masturbating on stage.