There is a young girl in “Eighth Grade,” whom we can easily relate to. She doesn’t put herself out of there, prefers if people talk to her, doesn’t have much views on YouTube, and wants to better herself. Elsie Fisher (best known as the voice of Agnes from the first two “Despicable Me” movies and Kevin Costner’s daughter in “McFarland, USA”) plays that girl, and at a maturing age, she is outstanding.
Kayla is finishing the 8th Grade, and her YouTube videos give viewers advice on how to make themselves better people. It looks like she’s the one who needs those advices. After attending a birthday party for a cool girl named Kennedy (Catherine Oliviere) and falling for Aidan (Luke Prael), a handsome, yet filthy-minded student, she decides to work on herself.
The party also features her talking to Kennedy’s nerdy cousin Gabe (Jake Ryan), who tries to do handstands in a splashy pool, and later in the film, invites her for chicken nuggets and fries. This side is sweet and sentimental in the way it gives the girl a back-up plan in her love story. That is of course if she needs a love story.
And when she attends a school field trip to her future high school, she immediately becomes friends with an older student named Olivia (Emily Robinson). She also receives a teaser from one of Olivia’s friends what happens when she reaches the sex level of high school.
Josh Hamilton plays her father Mark, who wishes he could understand her. She often snaps at him, telling him to knock on her door next time or never to spy on her again. He wants her to be happy, and he gives a heartbreaking speech to her near the end about being a father. His side of the movie is beyond touching, and Hamilton shines miraculously.
“Eighth Grade” is pulsating and gripping in the ways it shows us teens texting in school, their social media hobbies, and their own ways of growing up. Spoiled turds or not, the movie absorbs them, and it’s like a work of art. Writer/director Bo Burnham (soon to be 28) has outdone himself by guiding Fisher with the typical teen cliches, and Hamilton with the generous father characteristics, both of whom you really understand and you really care about.
The tone, heart, humor, and ambition presented here reminds me of last year’s two excellent Indies “LadyBird” and “Ingrid Goes West.” The first one was a coming-of-age story about a girl who wanted to enter the height of maturity, and the other one relied on social media to understand an emotionally disturbed young woman.
What I’m saying is that Indies offer more love than certain mass market films would. In mass market films, I could care less about their generic texting child characters, but in Indies, they offer us a certain aspect to which we may never understand. “Eighth Grade” leaps off the screen.
As Kayla would say at the end of her YouTube videos, “Thanks for Watching and Gucci.”