What A Time To Be Alive
Over the past few years, well known comedians have taken to directing movies and have come to overwhelming success. From Jordan Peele to John Krasinski, these comedic personas have traded in to give some darker or more realistic stories to the big screen that blow audiences and critics away. Now, famous comedian Bo Burnham has taken to the trend and has proven once again that comedians definitely can bring some of the greatest movies ever. Eighth Grade is filled with laughs, emotions, and overall enjoyment that reels the audience in and enthralls you for its runtime. Its honest and relatable and definitely earns praise as one of the best films of 2018.
Middle school sucks. Everyone who has grown up through the traditional education system knows how awkward and cringy those middle school days were. Burnham’s film gives us a snapshot into the last week of eighth grade for Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) as she struggles through all the emotions of being in middle school and yearning to fit in.
First off Elsie Fisher is fantastic in this movie and truly captures all of the anxieties, sadness, and hopes of being a middle schooler. She is only fourteen years old and I have to commend her for portraying being an eighth grader with such realism. She’s awkward when she has to talk with new people, angry when she’s talking with her father, and really sells the fact that you are watching an actual child go through these experiences. It’s never over the top, nor is she just phoning it in. Her performance is so palpable that you can’t help but relate to her situation and the encounters she has on a daily basis bringing both laughs and moments of cringiness due to the nostalgia.
The essence of being in eighth grade is wonderfully presented thanks to Burnham’s excellent direction. He has filmed the movie with a unique look and feel that feels fresh to a coming of age story. The way conversations are filmed are all done in one wide shot take, with the camera just resting over the setting as two characters conversed. There are not jumpy cuts of people’s faces as they are having a conversation and even when it may happen it is used sparingly. It leaves you in the moment enthralled with what’s going on screen and makes you feel like a fly on the wall eavesdropping on conversations.
Burnham has also added a stylistic irony to some of the scenes in the movies. Kayla has a video vlog (an activity that has spawned a lot of popularity among middle schoolers today) in which she shares advice to anybody willing to watch. These audios play in the background as she is currently carrying out the opposite of the advice she is sharing. When this first happened I didn’t notice it, but it continued to happen and I saw it as a stroke of genius on Burnham’s part. It illustrated the way middle schoolers minds work in how they view themselves versus how they actually act in real life providing a meaningful realistic dichotomy to those scenes.
That’s what makes the movie succeed so well, the realism at which the middle school experience is portrayed. The situations Kayla finds herself in from having anxiety to being around popular people, to making new friends each moment has an authenticity to it that cannot be described but begs to be experienced. The performances are not overdramatized in a typical Hollywood fashion making it all the more palpable. I cannot speak more highly as to how relatable this film is. You just feel the empathy within yourself as you watch the events transpire on screen.
Burnham is most known for his music when he performs his comedy shows, and the way music is utilized in this movie is unlike anything I have seen in a movie. The music signals introductions, aids in transitions, brings great laughs to the moments on screen, and all around keeps you invested. The score is incredibly unique that I can’t describe what the tone of it is. Just all the more praise for Burnham’s direction and style for this movie.
The movie is fairly quick and I could have watched another hour of what was going on. I was that invested with the story and the characters. Burnham effortlessly transitions the pains and beauties of middle school (but let’s be honest it’s mostly pains) to the big screen and does not sugar coat anything. It makes you laugh, cry, and appreciate the memories you had while also looking towards the future. It is one of the most relatable and emphatic films I have ever seen and I can not wait to see what Bo Burnham does next, because whether it will be through film or comedy shows you know it will be a masterpiece!