Eighth Grade Review
Musical comedian Bo Burnham’s writing and directorial debut is an awkward and exciting look into the life modern-day eighth grader transitioning to high school. Its relatively realistic setting and tone make it an incredibly unique look at middle school and Elsie Fisher’s and Josh Hamilton’s performances are moving.
With just one week of eighth grade left, Kayla (Fisher) attempts to survive plenty of embarrassing situations as she suffers from social anxiety. She does, however, give herself moments to shine through her advice vlogs that she posts to YouTube. So with some support from her dad (Hamilton), Kayla sets out to break her awkward personality and start off her high school life on a positive note.
Going into Eighth Grade, I questioned how Burnham’s comedic style would be implemented into the more serious take on Kayla’s journey. Many fans of Burnham, though, will be excited to see that both his comedic writing and fun musical cues make strong appearances through Kayla’s story and blend really nicely with the “middle-school mindset.” Burnham clearly was a perfect fit to tackle this subject matter as he brings something for multiple generations to enjoy and takes a fair look at the faults of both younger and older generations.
Fisher and Hamilton also bring their strengths to create a fun and realistic father-daughter relationship that can be felt throughout the film. Their struggles aren’t necessarily based off anything done or any bad blood between them, but rather are made from typical teen angst and parental misunderstanding which makes for some relatable arguments and loving bonds.
Burnham’s writing and Fisher’s performance also help bring some realistic looks at social anxiety at a young age and why middle school can be a troubling time for the modern young generation. There is no filter with Eighth Grade and for some parents and older generations, they might feel shocked to realize what goes on in a modern day middle-schooler’s daily life.
Instead Eighth Grade does a search for the hard truth and genuine awkwardness that comes from Kayla’s experiences and issues. It has moments that are truly awkward and cringe-inducing, but these moments feel more organic and less crafted for entertainment. It’s these moments where Burnham clearly took the most care and brought up issues that aren’t often explored or directly touched upon in an honest way.
In the film’s attempts for realism, however, I did find myself questioning some parts of the films for feeling a little too distractingly unrealistic. Some of the way scenes are set up and locations chosen felt a little too distracting for me. Particularly with the high school setting and scenes, I felt a little detached from what was happening and couldn’t help but call out the film for feeling a little too unrealistic during certain moments.
Regardless, in his first feature, Burnham has brought his musical and comedic styles together to take an honest look at teen social anxiety. He is helped even further with Fisher’s and Hamilton’s performances and made Eighth Grade a film that sheds a fair light on Generation Z that isn’t seen much in the film today.