Eighth Grade

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Eighth Grade
"The movie hangs loose on your bones." | Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

The teenage dilemma is to be seen and heard, not lost and ignored. The new natural for the now generation is to invent a personality, use social media to spread the news and hope that something fake and fabulous will evolve under the heading Pop-U-La-La!

Kayla (Elsie Fisher) makes video blogs, or whatever they are called these days, when you film yourself on the phone as if making a confessional selfie with the headline How To Be Confident, or Being Yourself, useful personal data for the great confused of the teen nation.

Life is different.

“I’m nervous all the time.”

Reality squeezes through the hunger for hope during the daily grind, no sex (too ignorant), practising blow jobs with a banana like they do on other people’s video clips (sad and futile), telling Dad when he shows up late in her room, bare-chested and charmy, to shut the door and stay the hell out. What does grown up life mean to a not-quite-but-almost high school chick who wants to find meaning in flat lines?

Writer/director Bo Burnham is still young enough to remember this stuff. The film tells the truth about trying to make sense of the senseless, what it feels like to be a little overweight and unappreciated by the cool crowd wherever they are, why her friend, the shitty kid who doesn’t care enough to wear happening shoes or sign up for what used to be called groovy, eats anger burgers like other rebel hard nuts from the self-help group of cliche deniers and doesn’t look awkward with girls if he bothers to notice them.

The movie hangs loose on your bones. You don’t expect feel-good and you don’t get it which makes you think that the truth of these times are bad vibes masquerading as the-only-way-is-down. Trapped in trivia, Kayla watches the dream of tomorrow diminish. What’s left but to leave the building. She doesn’t do that. She blogs her feelings and misfeelings, which may be dark but are hers and no one else’s and that’s what’s important and why they matter (why the film matters) in the dangerous days before someone suggests a sensible phase.

Reviewed on: 18 Apr 2019
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Thirteen-year-old Kayla endures the tidal wave of contemporary suburban adolescence as she makes her way through the last week of middle school - the end of her thus far disastrous eighth grade year - before she begins high school.
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