Eighth Grade had its US release back in July last year and since then, I’ve seen nothing but praise and high ratings for it online. Only now is it heading to UK cinemas and, for some reason, the powers that be have decided to go and release it at the same time as Avengers: Endgame later this month. Cineworld showed it earlier this week as one of their unlimited screenings, so I thought I’d give it a go before it gets lost among all the Avengers hype when it goes on general release.
Eighth Grade is the directorial debut of comedian and former YouTube star, Bo Burnham. It stars Elsie Fisher as Kayla, a young girl lacking in confidence, awkward around her fellow students at school and generally very quiet by nature. So quiet she even lands the award at school for being the quietest, nominated by fellow students in an awards ceremony held during assembly. The movie basically follows the daily struggles of Kayla and her life as a teenager. By night she endlessly scrolls through social media feeds and records her own YouTube videos. Her posts are confident, self help motivational videos about teenage issues, but rarely get more than a single like. She spends her days attempting to follow her own advice and dealing with the anxiety and heartbreak that brings. You feel genuinely awkward with her and spend the majority of the movie totally rooting for her, hoping she’ll make it through this tough period of life. Even at home she struggles – mum is no longer on the scene and conversations with her dad are just strained and awkward. All of what makes this feel so natural and believable is down to Elsie Fisher, who is incredible as Kayla, a real star in the making. It all goes to show that growing up can be so hard, girls can be real bitches and boys can be absolute dicks!
I guess your overall enjoyment of the movie kind of depends on whether you can relate to, or appreciate, any of the experiences or feelings that Kayla has. Being a socially awkward father of two daughters, I guess I was hoping to find a lot more to relate to and enjoy than I actually did. To be fair, there are plenty of perfectly observed, wonderfully acted and genuinely beautiful moments throughout, but the movie plays too much like a documentary and that worked against it for me. Far too many moments, particularly around the middle section, when the movie really dragged. And at only 93 minutes long, I shouldn’t really be checking my watch and hoping for it to end in the way that I did.
Probably only about 15 or so people attended the large screening of this at my local Cineworld, and around half a dozen of those got up and left during the movie. I wondered if this was indicative of the other screenings around the country but, judging by the reaction online afterwards, approximately 90% of Cineworld Unlimited members seem to have really loved it, with many declaring it their favourite movie so far this year! So I guess this is one of those movies that’s really going to divide people. Worth checking out though, and hopefully you’ll enjoy it a lot more than I did.