Title: Eighth Grade
Director: Bo Burnham
Actor(s): Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton
Runtime: 1 hour 33 minutes
I just watched this movie for the second time the other day. It is by far one of the most realistic coming-of-age films I’ve ever seen, and I think all teenagers (and all adults who remember being teenagers) should check it out. The main character, Kayla (Elsie Fisher) is a lonely and moody adolescent who makes Youtube videos that nobody watches. Most of the videos follow social and lifestyle advice- advice she’s too awkward and insecure to follow herself.
Kayla lives with her loving and tremendously patient single dad and is at that stage of life where everything she does seems to backfire on her and end in humiliation. She’s profoundly uncomfortable in her own skin, she doesn’t seem to have any friends and the popular girls have a way of freezing her out without even saying anything.
Kayla has a crush on a boy named Aidan and is rendered a babbling imbecile in his presence. She’s about to move on to high school and she keeps telling herself that things will be different then, but she can’t seem to convince herself of that. Elsie Fisher is just terrific in this role. She captures all that insecurity and weirdness and awkwardness of being that age and not fitting in with your peers. The movie resists the urge to fall into stereotypical territory and it does a great job of capturing what life is like as a millennial.
Kayla spends a ton of time on social media- scrolling, clicking, and liking other people’s photos and videos mindlessly- to compensate for her lack of real friends and a real social life. It shows how social media can make you feel even more distanced from your peers and even more isolated. It’s fun but often what people project is not reality, and it can leave you feeling more alone.
In a world where most teenagers are played by twenty-five-year-olds, Elsie Fisher is a breath of fresh air. She looks, talks, and feels like a young person trying to find her place in the world. She’s not always the most likable character in the world but her angst always feels authentic. Eighth Grade deals with some serious issues (including active shooter drills, sexual coercion and assault, and parental abandonment) with sensitivity and compassion. It never feels heavy or depressing even when the main character’s social ineptitude and vulnerability makes it hard to watch.