Movies for Breakfast EIGHTH GRADE Review
Eighth Grade was easily my favorite movie last year, so why not start off this year with a review of it!
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.
There are few movies that manage to capture the essence of adolescence. Eighth Grade managed to build a world around a thirteen year old girl Kayla make it come off as realistic the whole way through. This movie is aiming to tell a story, it aiming to show the life of Kayla. Kayla is not a popular kid, by any means and the movie shows her trying to change this before she enters 8th grade. While the movie is written as a comedy, it comes off as one of the most realistic representations of what it is like to be going into 8th grade that I can recall ever seeing in a movie.
There is no sugarcoating any aspect of Kayla’s life and what she goes through, but the movie isn’t about watching terrible things just happen to her. There is a middle ground that is hit perfectly where we feel excited for the actions that Kayla is going through and watching her succeed and then feeling bad when she fails. These successes and failures also feel real, and while they are easy to predict at times it isn’t because it was laid out in a way that we can see the outcome, it is because nearly everyone has experienced these situations at some point. Whether they experienced it first person or third person, none of the ideas in this movie are unbelievable, they stay grounded in a reality of what is completely possible. Kayla feels like a real person, it is entirely possible to be watching this movie and know someone who is exactly like her or even see it in yourself.
To keep with this the entire setting of the movie is fantastically put together. Just focusing on the school for a moment, this movie doesn’t turn the school into a cartoon or a prison like most adolescent or coming of age movies. Here though the school is exactly how I remember middle school. Boring assemblies where the teachers and principal are more excited than the students, and try their best to try and make it fun for the students. Drills that no one cares about, and kids use as a way to use their phones or whisper to each other in class. Even the voted most likely come off as realistic to what I remember in school. Where they all have well intention, but for the main character getting voted most quiet is comes off as an insult to her and her world. The setting of the school itself and the way it presents itself is a huge part of what makes this movie feel as real as it is.
Then you have the people in Kayla’s world. Every character you can tell exactly what kind of person they are almost from the start of the movie. There are no good kids or bad kids, just kids being kids. No one character becomes a trope of their characteristic within the movie. The only mild trope within the movie is that kids are constantly on their phones, which for a movie going for realism would be the case. If there were large portions of the movie where these kids were glued to their phones the entire time, it wouldn’t be realistic. Even in the scenes happening at a party, there is always someone in the background the focus of the scene that is on their cellphone. Every kids life within this movie seems to revolve around their cellphone.
one character especially sticks out during the movie, and that Mark who is Kayla’s father. Mark is Kayla’s only parent, and he is raising her by himself. He tires to get involved in Kayla’s life, but doesn’t push it. Often times just popping into her life to see how she is doing, and doesn’t get profound with words of wisdom or exposition to put her on her path. He is there to support her, but isn’t a focus of the movie. He makes mistakes and he means well with all his intentions when it comes to his daughter. There is one scene in the beginning of the movie where Kayla and her father are eating dinner and the conversations between them is exactly how a conversation between a single dad and his teenage daughter would go. Kayla wants nothing to do with her dad, she is engulfed in her own world, and her dad is just trying to be a part of it. Not pushing himself into her world, but asking how her day goes, and then seeing her get frustrated, and backing off accordingly.
It is scenes like that one that bring these characters feel so real. I know that is a word I use a lot in this review, but its the only word that best describes this movie. I am convinced that this was not a scripted movie. I have no doubt that Bo Burnham setup a bunch of cameras to record the day to day life of Kayla, then released that footage as a movie. That is how good this movie is, it doesn’t come off as a movie so much as it does an actual found footage where everyone seems to ignore the cameras that surround them. No one seems to be acting in this movie, they come off as if they are just being themselves. Which for the most part is true, when casting for this movie Bo went to an actual middle school to find the people for this movie and he didn’t pick these kids to act this way, he picked kids that already were this way. These aren’t professional actors in this movie, these are kids being themselves while reading lines from a script that are things they would say. Even traits of the kids made it into the script.
Even though the movie only takes place over a short period of Kayla’s life, we are introduced to a different Kayla than we leave at the end of the film. We see her character grow and change through the course of the movie, and it is natural chance. While it doesn’t feel like a completely different person, we see the Kayla she wanted to be at the beginning of the film toward the end. A Kayla that has managed to meet her goals and through some hardship managed to get into a better place than she was from the start. The movie feels like a full story even though it leaves open ended, and while I would love to see how Kayla goes through High School, I would hate to see this movie get a sequel as it ends off just perfectly seeing that she will be fine in her new setting.
This is one movie that I cannot suggest enough for everyone to watch, and if given the chance even watch it with the audio commentary with Bo and Kayla to get a better picture of how this movie came to be. This movie is my favorite movie of 2018, and I within 2018 alone I saw this movie three times in theaters and have watched it countless times in the background since its release on bluray. The behind the scenes and audio commentary for this movie are fantastic, and I suggest going through it all if given the chance.