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Film Editorial

eighthgrade.jpg Eighth Grade
 

Director: Bo Burnham

Stars: Elsie Fisher, Emily Robinson, Josh Hamilton, Jake Ryan, Luke Prael

YouTube star Bo Burnham’s directorial feature debut is a surprisingly perceptive, unvarnished & queasily funny portrait of teen angst. The excellent Elsie Fisher is the socially anxious thirteen-year-old Vlogger Kayla, whose peppy motivational videos she posts to YouTube belie her life as a shy wallflower struggling to be recognized by her peers. Her ebullient online persona also contrasts with her exchanges with her endlessly patient dad (Hamilton) with whom she can barely manage a grunt. To Kayla’s surprise she is invited to a pool party by popular but bitchy girl Kennedy (Oliviere) – this actually comes about as Kennedy’s mum fancies Kayla’s dad. At the party she has an awkward encounter with school heart-throb Adien (Prael) but hits it off with the school nerd Gabe (Ryan). While the film occupies the same milieu as ‘Mean Girls’, Burnham’s treatment of his young characters is winningly generous and nuanced – no one is irredeemable here, even the popular rich kids are more indifferent than cruel. Kayla is a heroine to root for, and there’s a genuinely charming scene where she bonds with uberdork Gabe over ‘Rick and Morty’. For older viewers the film works as a genuinely insightful and illuminating look at the travails of teen life in the social media age, as well as an all-too painful reminder of those anxiety ridden school days.