Reel Shorts | Eighth Grade

by Charles Kirkland Jr.

Netflix and Youtube comedian Bo Burnham graduates to the big screen as the writer and director of Eighth Grade.

Kayla is in the last two weeks of her eighth-grade year. She is the typical insecure and easily embarrassed early teen who finds strength and confidence in her video blog. While she posts about having self-confidence and being assertive, she lacks these things in her own life. As the end of the year approaches, Kayla realizes that she needs to take her own advice and “put herself out there.” Beginning with a pool party of one of the “cool kids” at her school, Kayla quickly finds that being “out there” can lead to a confusing world of problems.

Elsie Fisher (Despicable Me, McFarland USA) is delightfully wonderful and vulnerable in her portrayal of self-deprecating Kayla. Her courageous performance including several full-face, close-up shots, allows the viewers to be intimately involved with the character and buy into the events happening to her. She does an excellent job of portraying the two sides of Kayla, the one in front of the camera and the one out from in front of it. Our hearts genuinely break when these two worlds collide.

Josh Hamilton (Alive, 13 Reasons Why) plays Kayla’s father, Mark, who is trying his best to be a good single parent. Together, Mark and Kayla are both attempting to adjust to the changes in life as Kayla embarks on her coming-of-age, self-discovery journey.

Bo Burnham (what., Make Happy) has built a reputation for his insightful and piercing comedic wit through his Netflix specials and that talent communicates well in this medium too. He has written and directed a masterpiece that is simple and plain in its presentation but does not lack in depth and vision. Burnham allows the viewers to see the world and all of its imperfections through the eyes of a teenager yet he also enables us to have sympathy for that world.

Complex and subtle at the same time, Eighth Grade is a triumphant snapshot into the life of a young teenager trying to figure out her place in the world. It is uncomfortable, awkward and at times heart-wrenching but ultimately genuine, joyous and honest.

*At the time of the writing of this review, Eighth Grade had not yet received a rating by the MPAA. It will most likely be rated R due to language and uncomfortable, threatening situations.

Grade B

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