Eighth Grade is written and directed by Bo Burnham, who came to fame via YouTube after posting a video of himself, originally just for his family and friends, of him singing parodies.
Having shot to fame on the internet, he’s since gone on to do further directing and this is now his feature debut feature film all about growing up in the online world.
Kyla, Elsie Fisher (“Despicable Me”, “Masha And The Bear (TV)”), is an eighth grader, which means she’s around 13/14 years old. She posts YouTube videos that tell her followers, of which she doesn’t have many, how to be confident or how to put yourself out there when, in truth, she struggles to take her own advice.
She desperately wants to be in with the cool crowd but in reality, she’s a quiet and retiring type of girl, in fact she is voted the quietest in her year. She practically hyperventilates in the toilet when she is invited to one of the popular girl’s pool parties.
Burnham takes you through the life of Kyla and it is excruciatingly painful at times to watch. You will be squirming in your seat at some of the decisions Kyla makes, but that’s because you’ve probably already made them, or perhaps you are just struggling to understand what they go through in this ever-connected world.
Kyla’s life, in her eyes at least, isn’t helped by her father Mark, Josh Hamilton (“Frances Ha”, “Alive”), who also tries desperately to be the cool dad but usually always fails. Burnham does brilliantly dropping in various adults making a mess of themselves trying to be ‘cool’, such as the principal attempting to dab.
There are lots of funny moments, such as Kyla’s infatuation with a boy in her year, Daniel Zolghadri (“Hidden (Short)”, “NCIS (TV)”), in which every time he appears on screen, everything else recedes and a booming soundtrack is played. Though, this was more than awkward to see too as Burnham shoots it like a director shooting a rap video. Like totes awks.
When Kyla, and the rest of her year, attend high-school for a ‘shadowing’, which is where they are paired up with someone from high-school to show them around, she meets Olivia, Emily Robinson (“Transparent (TV)”, “Once Upon A Time In Venice”), who seems similar to herself, only a touch cooler perhaps.
Kyla and Olivia appear to hit it off, Olivia bouncing off the walls with energy and enthusiasm, and she invites Kyla to come hang out at the mall with her friends. Kyla does so, but her father kind of manages to ruin it and then there’s an awkward encounter with an older boy on the way home.
Burnham continues to put Kyla through the ringer, ramping up the cringe factor at every opportunity. If you love things like The Office, you’re going to absolutely love Eighth Grade.
Burnham handles the camera very well and in fact, in both direction and tone, the film reminded me of Ladybird, although obviously with a younger protagonist and she’s not quite so boisterous
Fisher is brilliant as the awkward young teenager trying to find where she fits into the world. Her YouTube videos saying one thing, whilst she says something else, of at least her actions do. Robinson as the hyperactive, older teen is also wonderful. She exudes energy each and every time she’s on screen.
Eighth Grade is a wonderful film, cringe, but wonderful.