Eighth Grade Review

23 Jul

Eighth grade can be an insecurity-infested hellhole, an important transitional period that manages to feel both pointless and confusing. In art, it’s a time period ripe for ridicule and nostalgia in equal measure, but the film is better off because Burnham chooses neither route. He’s a guy bursting with things to say, but grounded by the knowledge that none of us need to give a shit about anything he says.

It’s most certainly not just Burnham’s writing that shines here. A huge part of that is Elsie Fisher, who steals the show with a performance that is so endearing in its discomfort and so real in its empathy. Josh Hamilton does the same with his character, and Emily Robinson lights up the screen in an underrated performance. The music is loud but not overbearing, forcefully pleasant in a way that captures the conflicting impulses and signals of that moment in time. The film is very funny, but more importantly, it’s deeply uncomfortable to the point where certain moments are agonizing in their rawness. There’s a place and purpose for every scene, but it’s neither calculated nor artificial.

Ultimately, Burnham understands that he is not and never will be an eighth grade girl. He is connected through certain vivid emotions and themes, but he is also disconnected by experience. That sweet spot is where the film necessarily takes root, and Elsie carries it from there. The most important thing the film does, though, is treat the eighth grade experience with the utmost respect. It’s so easy to look back on it and scoff, to swear it off forever and roll your eyes at the person you were at that point. It’s a bit more difficult, but much more rewarding, to recognize that all those fears and insecurities, those anxieties and moments of change, those moments of childhood glee and parental love, all made you who you are today. And beyond even that, who you are at each point in time is no less important than twenty years down the line or twenty years in the past. In that moment, eighth grade is what matters. The “real word” is not reserved for adults. Every overwhelming piece of input and every frustratingly opaque signal is your world in that moment, and there’s nothing wrong with that. All of that matters. Eighth grade matters. College matters. Adulthood and old age matter. You matter.

Try to empathize, and our art and lives will be better off.



3 Responses to “Eighth Grade Review”

  1. Keith July 24, 2018 at 1:15 am #

    I was really drawn to the trailer of this. Very curious about it.

  2. Ricardo July 25, 2018 at 5:29 pm #

    i hate how the movie theater i go to here shows all the trailers for all these smaller films, but when release date actually comes, all they play is the latest jurassic park. it annoys me to no end.

    • polarbears16 August 3, 2018 at 12:23 am #

      Yeah the struggles of limited release are real

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