Bo Burnham's 'Eighth Grade': A cringeworthy trip through adolescence, with spirit and heart

Bo Burnham's 'Eighth Grade': A cringeworthy trip through adolescence, with spirit and heart

eighthgradeposter.jpg

By Hannah Loesch

Research for Eighth Grade must have been pretty interesting for YouTube star-turned-film director Bo Burnham. Somehow, he had to get into the mind of a middle school girl on the cusp of adolescence, and make everybody feel something. No easy task for a 27-year-old guy in his directorial debut. And yet, maybe what the film teaches us is that it’s not so hard after all.

Either way, the result is a film that that, at times, is so in touch with the awkwardness of adolescence, it’s almost cringeworthy. But we cringe because whether it was last month or thirty years ago, we’ve all been there. It’s just so real, and, at one point or another, so relatable.

 © A24

© A24

So real, in fact, that it’s easy to forget that Elsie Fisher is not Kayla, but a different person entirely who is reciting lines that were written by someone else. This is a testament to both Fisher’s acting, and writer-director Burnham’s keen radar for not only what Gen Z is feeling, but what they are doing… watching slime videos, following Jacob Whitesides on Twitter, and all.

 © A24

© A24

There for Kayla through her ups and downs is Mark (Josh Hamilton), Kayla’s single father who cheerfully works dad jokes and encouragement into otherwise solemn dinners with his daughter and her iPhone. Kayla might not yet see the amazing qualities in the person she is growing up to be, but he truly, genuinely does (he's not just saying that because he's her dad, as he tells her in one of the film's most heart-wrenching scenes). And by the end of the film, thanks to Fisher’s uniquely honest and endearing performance, so do we.

 'Eighth Grade' stars Elsie Fisher (l) and Emily Robinson. Photo © Cailin Loesch

'Eighth Grade' stars Elsie Fisher (l) and Emily Robinson. Photo © Cailin Loesch

Eighth Grade will be in theaters July 13th.

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