“Like” and “you know” – two of the most overused phrases in the English language. They irritate me; and the former is thrashed in the opening scene of Eighth Grade. I had a teenage daughter (now over that hump, thank goodness), so I know what overuse of language sounds like. In this case, they’re spoken by a girl in the last week of middle school, who regularly posts her thoughts about different topics.
Kayla Day’s (Elsie Fisher) online confidence belies her deep-seated insecurities. She isn’t at all sure of herself. She isn’t miss popularity; she doesn’t have a boyfriend. And she worries about all this all the time, so her life is a mess. And she doesn’t want to open up to her well-meaning but dorky single father, Mark (Josh Hamilton) who loves her very much.
A great deal of awkwardness features throughout this picture. This is a girl who’s totally uncomfortable in her own skin; and Fisher (Despicable Me) excels in the lead role. She positively owns it. So too her patient and devoted father, as played by Hamilton (Frances Ha).
Making his feature directing debut, Bo Burnham delivers a virtuoso Masterclass of film making. He seems to be able to to step into the mind of a 13 year-old. He presents the film in a series of episodes to build a full picture. Many are squirm-inducing. And yet that’s clearly what it’s like if you desperately want to fit in, but don’t.
Director: Bo Burnham
Cast: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton
Release Date: 3 January 2019
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Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre