Eighth Grade is a masterpiece. It’s a simple as that. I don’t know what’s in the water that writer director Bo Burnham is drinking but I would like to splash a little on my neck. Actually Burnham is known as a YouTube star though I am unfamiliar with his early work or later TV work. He has a following. And with Eighth Grade, it’s apparent why. While chronicling the life and times of 13 year old Kayla Day (Elise Kate Fisher) you never feel imposed upon. There is never some heavy hammer here. Just like social media itself, like a snake, it slowly envelops its prey and before you know it, you can…not…breathe.
My experience watching Eighth Grade was almost as terrifying as watching A Quiet Place, the awkwardness revealed in the film hits the highest of pitched levels. At times I wanted to cover my eyes. I certainly do not envy kids today or their parents — of which I am one. I think the real triumph of the film is that it can at one hand painfully and accurately represent the struggle of this age and at the same time entertain the audience every step of the way. Having us wonder what on earth will happen next.
The construct of the paradoxically shy YouTuber is a brilliant intro to Kayla. Meanwhile, her earnest dad (Josh Hamilton) is trying to get through to her, like paddling out against a set of twenty foot waves. And yet you can sympathize with both people. With just wanting to be left alone, with just needing to connect with someone in real life. The social media montages are brilliantly conceived and executed. The audio was screaming as loud as the Tamil language Indian films that get blasted at Marcus Cinema here in Mid-America…we were unsure if this was on purpose but it certainly would make sense if it was.
I can’t understand why this film is rated R. Kids today eat expletives (Fuck, okay? Fuck.) for breakfast. Frankly, this rating is a form of censorship and I think the MPAA should get off its high horse. The MPAA standards are uneven and need to evolve. Regardless, kids will be watching this film on their iPhones soon enough. I did read that there will be an MPAA approved version that 13 year olds can watch in the theater, which would be great.
I highly recommend to anyone Eighth Grade. Bring your kids. God forbid it may start an actual conversation.