Eighth Grade (2018)
Director: Bo Burnham
Writer: Bo Burnham
Actors: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton
I’ve known Bo Burnham for quite some time now. I remember being recommended some of his vine compilations on YouTube and was intrigued by his use of puns in comedy. He was funny, and I enjoyed him for what he gave. Then I forgot about him for a while. Years later, I see a post on Reddit about his comedy special “what.” and that it was free on his YouTube channel. I thought, why not check it out. I was thoroughly surprised to see how creative he was. It was not perfect, but that was what made it interesting. He did things in that special that I haven’t seen many stand up comics do. He tried to push forward the medium of stand up comedy to try to include music, video editing, and many more. Obviously he isn’t the first one to do this. But his approach was definitely creative, and you could see how talented he was from a mile away. So I was left wondering what he would do next. Bo came out with another special after “what.”, however I did not enjoy it as much. I couldn’t even get through it all. Something was missing. Anyway, I forgot about Bo Burnham after then. Maybe he wasn’t for me. Fast forward to 2018, when I hear about this independent film that is getting rave reviews about a girl in middle school that accurately depicts that feeling of being an awkward adolescent. To my surprise, the director was none other than Bo Burnham. From making videos on YouTube to a full feature film that is being included in many year end lists. I had to see what all the fuss was about. I know I am late to the party, but thankfully, I’m glad I came, because it was worth it.
Let me start out by saying that I did not know what to expect when I first went into this film. So when it started, and around 30 minutes passed, all I wanted to do was just close it and do something else. It was so awkward and cringey. I couldn’t bare continue. But then I thought, well that was how adolescence was. It was awkward, and it was cringey. So I just kept pushing along. To my surprise, by the end of the film all I wanted to do was hug Kayla. For some strange reason, I was now empathizing with an eighth grade girl. It just clicked halfway through and I really loved how Bo approached the character of Kayla. He just gave it to us straight. No bells and whistles, just 100% reality. My only issue with his approach is that, Eighth Grade doesn’t feel like a movie that much. It could easily be a webseries. Because the film is divided up into these very distinct “events” that just play into the overall character development of Kayla. I wanted the characters to be a bit more fleshed out. Or maybe something more substantial in the plot that helps tie everything together. Last year’s Lady Bird did this perfectly I think. It had the randomness of events that Eighth Grade has, but it managed to bring it all together much better. I mean obviously Greta Gerwig is much more experienced than Bo Burnham, but I am just pointing out my opinion and what I thought of the film. I think the thing that Bo did nail was the relationship between Kayla and her father. Those two characters were fleshed out and written really nicely. I was satisfied with their development throughout the film and how their relationship evolved. It was sweet, and the conclusion was heartwarming. If I were to ever watch this film again, it would be to watch the progression of that father-daughter relationship.
There isn’t much else to say about Eighth Grade to be honest. It is a film that is experienced differently by each individual watching it. It is a simple film but it gives a very powerful feeling. Especially the scene in the car. I just felt so bad for Kayla. I know she is fictional, but my god, all I wanted to do was console her. Nevertheless, I am happy for Bo. He has been grinding and hustling for so long. And you could see where his passion lies. His skills and talent just kept growing with every project he brought out. This film was the culmination of all those years of work. And I am glad he is finally getting the recognition he deserves. All I wish for is that he keeps pushing forward, and comes out with something even better.