Eighth Grade (2018)

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Critic Consensus: Eighth Grade takes a look at its titular time period that offers a rare and resounding ring of truth while heralding breakthroughs for writer-director Bo Burnham and captivating star Elsie Fisher.

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Thirteen-year-old Kayla endures the tidal wave of contemporary suburban adolescence as she makes her way through the last week of middle school--the end of her thus far disastrous eighth grade year before she begins high school.

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Critic Reviews for Eighth Grade

All Critics (220) | Top Critics (40)

In addition to its queasy verisimilitude, "Eighth Grade" offers acute observations on how social media and the language of self-care have warped teen life.

Aug 1, 2018 | Full Review…
New Yorker
Top Critic

Despite having the best of intentions, Hollywood would have told this story differently. Burnham keeps it real.

Jul 29, 2018 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

"Eighth Grade" aces the test.

Jul 27, 2018 | Rating: A | Full Review…

Fisher's performance is nothing short of cringeworthy (high praise in this case). Still, the real delight is Hamilton's equally ungainly dad, who grows up faster than any of the kids in the picture.

Jul 27, 2018 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

It's rare to see a movie about middle school years that looks and sounds as right as Eighth Grade, a modest charmer... Burnham avoids most of the Mean Girls-style tropes in favor of a more gently humorous and nuanced approach.

Jul 27, 2018 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…

An achingly honest film about some of the ghastliest years of adolescence. Funny, tender and endearing.

Jul 26, 2018 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
Newsday
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Eighth Grade

½

An interesting and thoughtful look at a character that oftentimes is dismissed in movies. Funny and heartfelt, but leaves you wanting more from the story, which feels incomplete.

Spencer Macklin
Spencer Macklin

Super Reviewer

I'm a fan of Burnham's, so I expected a lot from this film, and he did not disappoint. Apart from a few after school special tropes in the beginning, Burnham and Fisher really capture the realism of middle schools, while hitting a lot of subtle nuances that many media portrayals of schools miss. The laughs and the cringes are plenty and welcome, as are the heartfelt moments and moments of self-discovery. I look forward to more Bo Burnham written and directed films after this great debut.

Sanjay Rema
Sanjay Rema

Super Reviewer

Disarmingly and impressively empathetic, writer/director Bo Burnham's Eighth Grade is brimming with heart and authenticity in every frame. It's a simple story of Kayla (the wonderful Elsie Fisher) who is weeks away from completing her middle school years and entering the summer before high school. She's terribly introverted and awkward, only able to find her voice when recording her YouTube pep talk videos. Because of the protagonist's shy nature, Burnham smartly uses the YouTube videos often as voice over to offer better insight into the kind of person Kayla would like to present herself, sometimes contrasting with the real-life version struggling to find her place and sense of self. This is an observant film that rings with authenticity with the trials and tribulations of modern teenagers in the information age, where small screens are an escape, a crutch, but also a gateway to self-discovery. Fisher is a terrific lead, perfectly capturing the understated sense of a real average teenager (acne included). Because of the introverted and ordinary nature of her, it does take a while to fully embrace her as a character. This is the one real aspect that holds back Burnham's film. You'll feel for Kayla, oh you'll feel a lot of things, but it isn't until later that you'll engage with her. Like its heroine, this is a powerfully awkward movie with several cringe-inducing moments both comic and scary. It's hard to watch at times but it feels completely relatable even with the new-fangled gadgets of the kids these days. I'm just glad I didn't grow up in the age of ever-present recording devices. It's a generous movie without an excess of quirk. In fact the movie is pretty restrained with its vision of teenage uncertainty. I did enjoy the synth wave leitmotif that would pound whenever Kayla caught sight of the boy she was crushing on, communicating the beating of her heart in a cool, modern style. The climax involves a heart-to-heart with Kayla's dad (Josh Hamilton), a man struggling to navigate the changes in his daughter and respect her privacy and curiosity. It brought tears to my eyes and, in my opinion, wipes the floor with the much-ballyhooed paternal advice from Call Me By Your Name. Burnham acquits himself nicely as a director quite well. His choices are determined by his story, and he draws out completely natural performances from his troupe of talented actors. I never would have thought this would be the kind of story a comic drenched in irony would tackle. Eighth Grade is a sincere, deeply heartfelt, and awkward movie about an awkward time most of us would like to skip. Don't skip Eighth Grade. Nate's Grade: B+

Nate Zoebl
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

13 GOING ON 14 - My Review of EIGHTH GRADE (5 Stars) When WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE came out in 1996, I loved it, but my friend Vicki called it "hateful and heinous". Her words stuck with me all these years, despite my continued appreciation of that film. How could she not see what I saw? Well, it took 22 years, but I think I understand now after seeing EIGHTH GRADE, a kinder, gentler, but still edgy cousin to Todd Solondz's film. Written and directed by first timer Bo Burnham, who's only 14 years out of eighth grade himself, the film feels simple yet is one of the most gorgeously acted, emotionally connected films of 2018. Starring Elsie Fisher (remember that name) as Kayla, we stay close and tight on this withdrawn, pimply-faced sweetheart who aches to connect with others as she makes her way through her last year of Junior High. For much of the film, it's a losing battle as she gets ignored by almost everyone despite her attempts to fashion herself into a YOUTUBE star complete with the adorable constant sign-off, "Gucci!". Living with her single father Mark (Josh Hamilton), a Dad also desperate to make human connections, she prefers to ignore him and bury her face in her phone. Like many teenagers, she crushes hard on the wrong person, played to disaffected perfection by Luke Parel, who wins the "Best Eyes" prize in school, but a real turd lies beneath his blue peepers. She also tries to make friends with the cool girls, but they just can't be bothered. Every moment of this film rings true, with Burnham making sure to favor real reactions instead of the hyped-up ones we're used to seeing in the genre. The YOUTUBE clips cleverly serve as our narration as Kayla imparts life lessons which she thinks she's practicing but more often fails miserably. Kayla's journey of self-awareness is a joy to behold, watching her slowly making baby steps towards self love. Burnham uses a wonderful motif throughout of her shattered iPhone screen, which she tosses across the room in a moment of panic. Its ever-growing cracks represent the character's downward slide beautifully. Same goes for the gloriously in-your-face electronic score by Anna Meredith. It's big, bold and loud, perfectly reflecting how every little moment is huge to a teen. Most indies go the acoustic folk route, but EIGHTH GRADE is special. It truly understands its main character and I loved going along for the ride. Burnham also works wonders with a Time Capsule motif, which pays huge emotional dividends at the end. I was reminded of those big crying moments on RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE when Ru holds up each Queen's childhood photo and asks them to give advice to their younger self. In EIGHTH GRADE'S case, the payoff had me crying harder than a hundred Eurekas and Sasha Velours combined. EIGHTH GRADE looks and feels real, from its unassuming cinematography by Andrew Wehde to its production design by Sam Lisenco. Everything is in service of its main character, never calling attention to itself. It's how film storytelling should be. My old friend Dan Fisher was the Prop Master on the film, and just one look inside Kayla's Time Capsule will convince you of the love and care spent on getting inside Kayla's head. At the screening I attended, Burnham told us that Kayla's dialogue was written down to every "um" and "like". It's an impressive feat considering how true everything feels. And just when everything feels hopeless for our little heroine, in comes a mentor, beautifully realized by Emily Robinson (TRANSPARENT), who offers a perspective-changing experience for Kayla. It's one of the most lovely sequences I've seen in a film in ages, acting as the perfect exhale to the prior torment she suffers. Speaking of which, you won't soon forget an ominous scene in the back seat of a car, where the emotional violence of it feels harsher and more sustaining than anything physical. This scene was reminiscent of one from THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN, although Hailee Steinfeld's character could articulate her feelings better than the younger Kayla. While Elsie Fisher delivers an unforgettable performance, I can't say enough about Josh Hamilton, an actor who despite a long career, has never really registered for me, until now. It's a difficult, rich role, allowing him to be the "Dad-joking" parent while also delivering harsh truths and in one sensational scene, pouring out his deep love for his daughter. Another three hankie moment. This instant classic definitely delivers on all counts. It even gives the audience that revenge fantasy scene in which Kayla gets to finally shout down her enemies, but it does so with all of the awkward, stymied force of a real 13 year old. It's charming, heartwarming without being maudlin, funny as hell, and incredibly empowering for all. I think my friend Vicki will agree with me on this one, finally!!

Glenn Gaylord
Glenn Gaylord

Super Reviewer

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