‘Eighth Grade’ Blu-Ray Review: Portrait Of The Awkwardness Of Teen Life In The Social Media Age
Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade is a contemporary coming of age story, perfectly encapsulating the awkwardness of the teenage years and the prominence of social media youth today face.
Kayla is the film’s protagonist, an anxious thirteen-year-old girl who’s preparing to graduate middle school. She, however, isn’t the most socially-adept member of her class; Kayla instead turns towards social media and her unnoticed YouTube channel in lieu of befriending her classmates, which only reinforces her insecurities. Eighth Grade largely concerns itself with Kayla’s social growth, and we see her begin to shed her anxiety and act upon the advice she gives in her self-help Vlogs. Audio of Kayla’s YouTube videos permeate the film, overlaying or juxtaposing her advice with the situations she finds herself in; likewise, the film’s overall sound direction and cinematography accentuate Kayla’s fears and feeling of aloneness.
It must also not be understated how much Elsie Fisher’s performance adds to her character and the film. She, a 13-year-old herself, portrays Kayla’s struggles earnestly, from Kayla’s impatience with her dad to her nuanced ways of conveying her insecurities. Burnham’s choice to explore the issues girls face was a worthwhile one, being especially resonant in today’s #MeToo landscape. One of the movie’s most powerful scenes is when a teenage boy tries to coerce Kayla to remove her shirt while isolated in his car. Fisher’s body language and dialog — from her inability to make eye contact to her apologizing for her discomfort to her emotional breakdown — is eye-opening. Josh Hamilton plays Mark, Kayla’s doting father and the film’s second most prominent character. Although their relationship is strained by Kayla’s dependance on social media, he and his dedication to connecting to her are nevertheless the only stable fixtures in Kayla’s life.
Eighth Grade has few bonus features to speak of, but the bonuses present on the Blu-ray are enjoyable. “You’re Not Alone: Life in Eighth Grade” is a 14-minute documentary where Burnham and the main cast discuss the process behind creating the film, their parts in it and how they relate to Kayla’s experience. Eleven minutes worth of deleted scenes are included as well.