I’ll be honest; it’s been nearly 25 years since I’ve been in the 8th grade, so it might be difficult to really determine the accuracy of the feeling portrayed in “Eighth Grade.” But whether or not you look back fondly on your middle school years, you’ll probably agree that this film is the most uncomfortable you will feel in a movie theater outside of a horror film. It’s simply incredibly awkward.
But what the film truly masters (aside the cringeworthy awkwardness) is a portrayal of adolescence. Kayla (Elsie Fisher) is childlike in some scenes, and in others yearns to be treated as an adult. At various times throughout the film she tries on different personalities. She’s clearly trying to figure out who she is and who she wants to be. (In short, she’s 14.) Fisher’s ability to capture both is simply incredible.
What’s also incredible is director Bo Burnham, in his directorial debut. I, as many were, was a big fan of his standup, and was looking forward to seeing what he could do behind the camera. To say he exceeded my expectations was an understatement. He is simply masterful at capturing what is going on in Elsie’s head without use of narration and without spoon-feeding it to the audience. All of us can look back at things we did or said and recoil; Burnham has created a film full of these moments.+3