Contributing Author: Kelly is a 14 year old who has wanted to be a writer since she was seven. She lives in Montreal, Canada where she enjoys drawing, horseback riding, and cats.
The shocking reality of the middle school experience is on full display in the movie “Eighth Grade,” written and directed by Bo Burnham.
We follow Kayla, portrayed by Elsie Fisher, a teenager who struggles with anxiety and putting herself “out there,” as her dad calls it, as she moves closer to the end of eighth grade. I could relate to her a lot, since I have trouble making friends and speaking up, and I suffer from anxiety. One moment in the movie hit way too close to home; when Kayla was congratulating one of her fellow classmates on being voted “Best eyes” on her way out, the girl didn’t even hear her. I struggle with talking loud enough for people to hear me, and I can’t even count the number of times I’ve said something and the person hadn’t even heard it. One of Kayla’s hobbies is making how-to videos, which she posts on her YouTube channel. Most of them are about something along the lines of “how to be yourself”, or “how to be confident”, which are, coincidentally, all subjects with which she has trouble.
When I say I’ve never seen a movie like this before, I mean I’ve never seen a movie like this before. Usually, movies depicting kids’ day to day school life opt for either elementary or high school, but rarely the awkward transition in between. Even then, the few movies that do go for this school period make middle-schoolers look like high schoolers. They never include the selfies, the awkward interactions, the trying-to-fit-in.
Eighth Grade made eighth-graders look like eighth-graders. Pimples, stacking markers, slouching, and all. Bo Burnham nailed the cringiness of middle school, but I say this in the best way possible. During some scenes, I just had to close my eyes and sigh. I also liked that they chose an actor who actually was in middle school. I learned that during the filming process, Elsie Fisher was actually in eighth grade, which just gave it that extra pinch of realism you don’t often see in movies. The soundtrack was also something I really enjoyed in this movie. It had this electronic style, and it fit well with the middle-schoolers, since they were always glued to their phones. The music brought you beyond the screen, and you could really feel like you were there with Kayla. My favorite tune from the score was “How To Be Confident.” The song really reflected Kayla’s anxiety and excitement in the moment.
Elsie Fisher was far from the only good actor in this movie. We also saw Elsie’s dad, Mark, played by Josh Hamilton, who kept me laughing and cringing the whole time. There was also Olivia, played by Emily Robinson, who was Kayla’s guide as she took a “test” day to see what it would be like in high school. Olivia’s sweet and awkward personality made her one of my favorite characters. We also had Gabe, played by Jake Ryan, the goofy sweetheart of the movie. The casting was excellent, and the actors did an excellent job at keeping the movie as realistic as possible.
At 94 minutes in length, I felt the movie included some scenes that could have been cut shorter, especially scenes with Kayla’s dad, which felt as though they just dragged on and on. On the other hand, though, I guess that’s how real life is, sometimes we do just talk for the sake of talking, and for the sake of having a conversation. I also do feel like Kayla was quite rude towards her dad, while he was just trying his best, and was being very kind to her. I really felt bad for him, especially when he was trying to talk to her, and she had her earphones in. In any case, if I acted that way… let’s just say things would not go down well!
All in all, I’d definitely recommend this movie to eighth graders, or kids going into eighth grade.
It’s painfully realistic, through the uncomfortable scene with Kayla and one of Olivia’s guy friends in the back of the car, to her having a panic attack in the bathroom. This movie will definitely give you a taste of real life, and how middle school can really be.