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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 


An introverted teenage girl (Elsie Fisher) tries to survive the last week of her disastrous eighth grade year before leaving to start high school.

Review by Louise Keller:
Buoyed by a breakout performance by Elsie Fisher, who exhibits all the uncertainty, angst and trepidation of the awkward teen, Eighth Grade is an endearing and insightful glimpse into the dark recesses of a young mind on the brink of adulthood. In his feature debut, writer director Bo Burnham has created an interesting structure with which to present his coming of age tale. The fact that Kayla sounds as though her dialogue is improvised makes it all the more real. She punctuates her sentences with words like 'um', 'like', and 'you know'. But the delivery is so unselfconscious and the film plays out almost like a stream of consciousness. It's about the pain of being who you are; the anguish of not being who you want to be; the fear of not fulfilling your hopes and dreams. It's a coming of age story like no other.

When we first meet Kayla (Fisher), she is talking to herself. About herself. In videos she is making on her iPhone. She is exploring who she is, is putting herself out there, and is trying to be confident when she is not confident at all. We feel for her at every turn: the awkwardness of a pool party to which she is not really welcome, the gauche responses sitting in the backseat of a car with a boy who wants to play Truth or Dare; exchanging a conversation limited to exclamations of 'cool' over fish fingers and chips.

Fisher carries the film beautifully and lets her vulnerability show. Shot mostly in close-up, Burnham shows off the symbolic pimples at every opportunity. But there is another character that is key: Kayla's father Mark, sensitively played by Josh Hamilton. The father daughter relationship is scrutinized at all angles, as is the unease between them. There is non-communication at the dinner table, when Kayla is intent on listening to her music; tantrums and irrational behavior at any time of the day and the film's most moving scene set in the backyard when truths are spoken between father and daughter. That's when we realize it is not just the teenager who is riddled with complexes of self-doubts and inadequacies.

Eighth Grade is a beautiful film and one that reminds us of the road on which we all travel. The recognition of that bumpy path of discovery when we learn about ourselves and our relationships is priceless.

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(US, 2018)

CAST: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson, Jake Ryan, Daniel Zolghadri, Fred Hechinger, Imani Lewis, Luke Prael, Catherine Olivere

PRODUCER: Eli Bush, Scott Rudin, Christopher Storer, Lila Jacob

DIRECTOR: Bo Burnham

SCRIPT: Bo Burnham


EDITOR: Jennifer Lilly

MUSIC: Anne Meredith


RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes



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