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'Eighth Grade' is a charming, awkward tale about the modern teenage experience

Comedian Bo Burnham's first feature film — which he directs and scripts — is so relatable, it feels like a documentary at times.

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  • | 4:24 p.m. August 7, 2018
Photo courtesy of Times Union
Photo courtesy of Times Union
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"Eighth Grade" is one of those films whose main character is someone with whom we can identify. It spans the last week of middle school for a 13-year-old who is as wise as she is uncomfortable in her own skin.

Kayla (a wonderful Elsie Fisher) is an awkward introvert who exudes kindness toward others. But as things go in eighth grade, it's not often returned. Voted as "Most Quiet" in her class, while others are receiving acknowledgment for "Best Eyes" and "Best Athletes," Kayla is not pleased with her designation. Conversely, she presents herself regularly on YouTube videos as being insightful, confident and cool. Her signoff at the conclusion of each episode is "Gucci!"


Kayla is keenly aware of her shortcomings and determined to conquer them. She challenges herself on a regular basis with the encouragement of her loving and supportive father (a perfect Josh Hamilton). "Putting yourself out there" is something that she urges her YouTube followers (which are very few) to do, while she struggles to do so everyday. Kayla just wants to be "cool." Didn't we all?

Photo courtesy Refinery29
Photo courtesy Refinery29

This is comedian Bo Burnham's first feature film in which he directs and scripts, and it's utterly amazing how he nails a teenage girl's angst. He makes us squirm, wince and applaud as we witness Kayla navigate her heartwarming journey. There are some really uncomfortable moments but also joyous and hilarious ones as well. Burnham balances it all like he's been at it for years. His empathy is beyond incredible.

Ms. Fisher occupies nearly every frame of this provocative film, which provides the actress the opportunity to display her immense talent. The slouch, the forced smiles and her acute acquiescence are presented on such a real level that her acting seems more like she's participating in a documentary. She can relate because, obviously, she's been there. 

"Eighth Grade" is also a film about how issues are also quite different for teens today than they were in the past. Most notable are eyes glued to devices but a depiction of a school shooting drill seems so matter-of-fact that it sends chills down one's spine. 

"Eighth Grade" is a sweet, clever and charming movie. It's cool, awesome and, well, just downright "Gucci."  


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