Eighth Grade (2018)

Eighth Grade. Released: August 3, 2018. Directed by: Bo Burnham. Starring: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson. Runtime: 1h 33 min.

I like Bo Burnham, he’s funny. He got his start on YouTube in 2006 posting funny songs from his bedroom (like “New Math,” which makes math fun). He helped me with fractions with lyrics like “having sex is like doing fractions; it’s improper for the larger one to be on top.”

It’s 10 years later and he’s made something universal with his directorial debut Eighth Grade, a film that’s been helping me through an anxious time – which is way more important than fractions. The film stars a delightfully awkward and convincing Elsie Fisher as Kayla Day, an eighth grader just trying to survive her last week of middle school.

Kayla’s an average eighth grader, and you’ll likely see a lot of yourself in her. Every time she sends a cringe-y text or tries to be nice to people who want literally nothing to do with her, you’ll want to stop her. (I still wish someone would stop me from sending a bad text half the time).

I saw myself in Kayla, especially her anxiety of worrying what people will think of her as she goes to a popular kid’s pool party. She describes anxiety as the “butterflies you get while waiting in line for a rollercoaster;” but that’s how she feels when she isn’t doing anything. A character named Olivia (Emily Robinson) helps Kayla through some of these moments, and these scenes are charming.

These messages are what make Eighth Grade‘s story timeless for any viewer, as Kayla’s anxiety and doubts can happen at any point in your life. Because of this, it’s not a film you just watch; it’s one that you experience and remember (even as adult viewers, since we’ve gone through eighth grade too).

Bo Burnham was always a clever guy, but here he shows great understanding of adolescence and the current generation growing up. Eighth Grade is personal, intimate, and so good. Kayla doing YouTube videos feels a lot like how Burnham himself started out – and sprinkling her videos throughout the film as narration is smart storytelling. Elsie Fisher as his star was also great casting, because she’s so convincingly awkward during her YouTube videos, giving life advice to people like her, advice which she tries to use for herself. Her character is relatable, and Fisher herself is very charming.

Eighth Grade featured

Director Bo Burnham and Elsie Fisher (IMDb).

Kayla looks like an average teenager, complete with acne and everything. And that’s so refreshing. Fisher becomes Kayla; it’s heartbreaking, heartwarming, and often just crushingly awkward watching her navigate middle school’s struggles and life’s ups and downs – especially romance. It’s entertaining when she sees the object of her affections, Aiden (Luke Prael), and Enya’s “Sail Away” plays on the soundtrack.

Her supportive father is also such an amazing character, played memorably by Josh Hamilton. He’s trying his best…even if Kayla wants nothing more than to listen to music rather than listen to him.

The trend of great father monologues (like in Call Me By Your Name and Lady Bird) continues with “Eighth Grade.” It’s another great moment; and when I’m bawling in the theatre I always wonder how they deliver the lines without crying. I can barely get through an argument without crying. Kudos to you, Josh Hamilton.

Kudos to everyone, really, and especially Bo Burnham and Elsie Fisher. Burnham makes the ordinary feel so entertaining. There’s a full range of characters, so even if you don’t relate to Kayla’s specific situation, you’ll likely relate to someone else. I’m a lot like Kayla and I’ve been like Gabe (Jake Ryan, playing an equally awkward youth who tries to befriend Kayla) multiple times in my life. Burnham writes a solid film and as an all-around full view of Kayla’s world and immerses us completely in it.

Score: 90/100

This review originally appeared on The Movie Buff.

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My anxiety and The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Emma Watson

Emma Watson in The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Source)

Hi all, I thought I would divert from my usual film reviews for a post. I wanted to share a column piece I wrote for my college newspaper, the Algonquin Times, last semester about my anxieties in high school and how the film The Perks of Being a Wallflower  (review) helped me get through it.

I also just wanted to share what I’ve been doing in school, too, so here’s my author page for the publication if you wanted to check out any of the other articles.

Anyway, here’s the article which originally appeared here

Logan Lerman

Logan Lerman in The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Source)

During my high school senior year, I was looking for a sense of belonging.

I was searching through the hallways or, frankly, anywhere I could find it.

Finding that belonging has never been easy for me. Those lonely lunch hours led me to going home for lunch a lot, my main comfort zone.

I’ve had anxiety for some time. The source for it has been my fear of judgment, a need of acceptance and lack of confidence. Another source of my anxiety was my inability of feeling like I could be myself in a group of people where I felt uncomfortable with one person. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling.

Alas, anxiety is a part life.

I wasn’t able to truly pinpoint these feelings until October 2012 when I saw the film The Perks of Being a Wallflower, adapted from a novel of the same name by Stephen Chbosky. It was a film that changed my life.

The film dealt with a wallflower, an introvert, who found friendship during his teenage years. The narrative showed there’s no shame in being yourself, and that none of us are alone. Its content was deeply resonant at that point in my life, and I felt like I was taking the journey with the characters. I laughed and cried, and had a lump in my throat throughout.

Even like one’s basic anxiety medication, The Perks of Being a Wallflower didn’t make me invincible. I still had my fair share of problems and took a year off after high school until my anxiety had weakened and my heart wouldn’t beat like a speeding drum, like it did on the first day of college.

The film brought me a better understanding of myself. It helped me feel more visible. It, and my program, has drawn me out of my gradually expanding comfort zone. It’s helped show me that I really can do anything I aspire to do.

Since this current level of the journalism program has less than 35 students, I can honestly say I wouldn’t be the same person if it were a larger program. Our tight-knit community brought me confidence, and it help me to find a group of like-minded people.

When I met with a friend from high school, I asked him if he noticed anything different about me, expecting no deep answer. “You laugh more,” he said.

I can attribute that to finding a sense of belonging. I am no longer that vulnerable boy walking down a hallway looking for a friend.