Damage control: ‘Eighth Grade’ is an masterful, endearing coming-of-age drama

Damage control: ‘Eighth Grade’ is an masterful, endearing coming-of-age drama
29 Jul

Elsie Fisher as Kayla in Bo Burnham’s EIGHTH GRADE (Photo: A24)

Eighth Grade
4.5 out of 5 Stars
Bo Burnham
Writer: Bo Burnham
Starring: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rated: R for language and some sexual material

Synopsis: Kayla, a socially awkward teenager, struggles through her last week of eighth grade.

Review: Many critics like to use hyperbole when they describe a movie. In a world where information is constantly being thrown at us, a headline that proclaims a film “the greatest movie ever made” is more likely to be noticed than a headline that is more truthful. So, when I tell you that “Eighth Grade” is one of the best and most important films ever made about being an adolescent in the modern world, I want you to know that I mean it.

Bo Burnham’s script is a tremendous mix of comedy and horror that is not only honest, it feels absolutely real. For as much as I enjoyed last year’s “Lady Bird,” there was a distance between the narrative and the audience that always reminded me that I was watching a film. There is no space between “Eighth Grade” and the viewer. When Kayla looks mournfully at her closet in despair as she plans to go to the mall, you’re standing right there with her. When she finds herself trapped in the backseat of a car, you’re there too.

Part of the credit needs to go to Elsie Fisher, a young actress who has a fairly extensive resume, but is stepping into the spotlight for the first time. And she doesn’t waste her shot. It’s been a phenomenal year for young actors (Millicent Simmonds in “A Quiet Place” and Milly Shapiro in “Hereditary” instantly come to mind), but I’d argue that Fisher gives us the best performance because it sticks with you long after the credits roll. I know that Kayla isn’t a real person, but I worry for her just the same.

It is unfortunate that the film’s R-rating will keep some from seeing this film; it should be required viewing for teens and their parents alike. There are moments, heavy situations, that are handled in such a raw and honest way that watching this film could be life-changing, if not lifesaving, for young teens.



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