Movies about teenagers tend to deal with the same topics: friends, crushes, parental guidance, and pressures. The material offers a variety of characters, emotions, and comic situations. But Eight Grade manages to feel fresh with those same ideas. For one, it’s more of an intimate account. The camera likes to observe an eight-grader named Kayla. Her imperfections and state of mind. At night she likes to create YouTube videos about “Being Yourself” and “Putting yourself out there”. Yet in the classroom she doesn’t practice her advice. So she tries being courageous by going out to a party and attempting new friendships.
The story uses a combination of natural behavior and contrived situations to make uneasy moments. Observe how Kayla is invited to a swimming party by her classmate’s Mom but not her classmate (Catherine Oliviere). And how her crush(Luke Prael) doesn’t show any interest in her and yet she watches him walk as if he were the center of a music video in slow motion. It’s a mix of mild pain and humor. This is also a movie to reflect on current times. How teenagers live with their gadgets by frequently gazing at their screens. Kayla, impressively performed by Elsie Fisher, is caught up in this life. Her single father (Josh Hamilton) is a positive parent but can’t seem to connect with her. At the dining table he makes his presence felt while she keeps busy with her phone. It’s a one way effort as he tries to converse with her while she gets irate with his questions. Eigth Grade is a small movie written and directed by Bo Burnham in his debut feature. It’s not original or fresh but it feels like it and Fisher’s performance makes it work.