Eighth grade feels like forever ago for me; 11 years, to be exact. Sitting here and typing this up out makes me ponder and recollect the memories I carry to this day, good and bad. The moments that make you cringe, smile, or boil up in anger knowing you were once young and dumb. It is those moments comedian Bo Burnham captures perfectly in his directorial debut Eighth Grade.
Through the eyes of our protagonist, 12-year-old Kayla (the incredibly talented Elsie Fisher), we experience the final week of 8th grade– all of the gory details included. Right from the start, we’re introduced to Kayla through a static shot YouTube video. The camera slowly zooms in and we eventually become enveloped in her explanations of how to be yourself to her lack of an audience, albeit with a few too many “um’s” and “like’s.” The cringe-inducing scene quickly becomes cleverly wholesome, as the shot ends and we see Kayla sitting alone in her room. It’s simple but incredibly effective introduction to our lead.
From here on out, Eighth Grade becomes a nice blend of the hilarious, the heartwarming, and the uncomfortable. You get to experience the highest highs and lowest lows of middle school, all while learning who Kayla is. Scenes involving heartbreak and fear match the tones that carry levity; Burnham never bears you down with the tragic aspects of the story, but lets you understand it’s not always fun to be a kid. It is in Burnham’s ability to carry the weight of the subject matter that pushes his style to perfection. This is all thanks to a snappy script, and direction to carry said script to perfection. It’s almost ridiculous that Bo Burnham put out Eighth Grade as his directorial, debut but if you’ve watched any of his comedy specials it should come to no surprise.
This all eventually leads to a climactic burning of Kayla’s 6th grade time capsule, all set to a heartfelt and tear-inducing conversation between Kayla and her dad (an underrated performance from Josh Hamilton). In a way, the whole film seems to be setting this up from the get-go. All of the themes build upon each other: acceptance, self-worth, and the current day anxieties of social media are wrapped up in a perfect bow. Bo Burnham has not only constructed a perfect comedy, but a universal coming of age story that is very rarely told– one that I hope becomes a classic.
dir. Bo Burnham
Screens Friday, 9/27 @ Video Underground
Doors at 7:30, show starts at 8:00. RSVP requested.