Eighth Grade ★★★★½

“Eighth Grade” (2018) - [9/10] - Day 97 of #Movies365

I remember eighth grade. I remember making a fake AIM profile to prank my friend into thinking I was a cool older guy with a car (user name: coolguywithacar16). I remember having three different prescriptions for acne treatment (one pill, one wash, one cream). I remember being in the rain, telling a crush I loved her, and her shouting, “You don’t know what love is!” before running away.

It was a difficult time.

Bo Burnham’s “Eighth Grade” knows this. It knows it down to its bones. Elsie Fisher stars as Kayla, a sweet, goofy kid who is too shy and insecure to let that side of her out. But by god, she’s trying. She makes lists with goals like “how to get a boyfriend” and she forces herself to go to a party where she knows she’s not welcome. That’s the key to why this movie works - she’s not a pitiful person. She’s a great person. She just doesn’t know how to get others to see that yet. 

We are trained to watch teen movies with a suspension of disbelief baked in. “Teens” are almost always played by people in their mid-20s, and everyone is beautiful and articulate and cool. In “Eighth Grade,” the characters look like they’re in eighth grade. They talk and behave like they’re in eighth grade. They’re not witty - they make each other laugh by quoting “Rick and Morty.” Because of course they do. 

“Eighth Grade” also deals with sexuality directly and frankly. The movie’s best scene is also its most difficult to watch, when an older boy puts Kayla in an impossible situation. I couldn’t believe it came from a male filmmaker. Everything about it - every moment leading up to it and everything after - felt true in a way I have never seen in fiction before. I can’t stop thinking about it. 

This morning, before writing this review, I watched some interviews with Bo Burnham and the movie’s star, Elsie Fisher. She seemed so self-assured, so gregarious. Which, sure, obviously, she’s an actor, Kayla was just a role she was hired to play. But because the movie and her performance felt so real, so true to life, I was shocked at how comforted I was to see her being so confident and sure of herself. It made me think she is going to be OK. 

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