Trying to capture the essence of our current times is difficult. It is hard to do. Try to explain a meme to anyone, and you look or sound like an idiot. Eighth Grade does it so well, and it makes for one of the better coming-of-age movies in recent memory.
The movie centers on Kayla Day (played by Elsie Fisher) and her father Mark Day (played by Josh Hamilton). Fisher’s character navigates the muddy waters of middle school where she has to deal with issues like self-confidence, popularity and the opposite sex.
It is a story told a million times over. It doesn’t necessarily break any new ground; what it does do for viewers is give you a way to look into a generation that is confounding. The trials and tribulations are still there for the millennial/gen-z population, they are just repackaged and not easily digestible.
Director and writer Bo Burnham does a fantastic job letting his actors do a lot of the work for him. They chew up what they are given and provide interactions that could honestly be taken from a documentary. As a young adult, it feels weird looking back on my own middle school years, but enough perspective was provided to me watching my youngest brother grow up having Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter.
You don’t recognize just how real the interactions are and how organic they feel until well after the film is over. The love that Hamilton portrays in his acting is so smooth it has to be given praise. He presents uncomfortable interplays naturally without it feeling forced.
Throughout the film, it gives modern references that might feel like a time capsule yet they provide you with a window into what a younger generation might enjoy.
While laughs are had throughout, it is also emotionally stimulating as well. The range of emotions can go from traumatizing to downright touching. The fact that they are able to operate it as well as they did is once again a credit to Burnham who puts his two stars in great spots.
Fisher deserves all the praise she garners as she has to internalize most of her feelings for large portions of the movie. Her emotions in specific moments allow you to ride along with her as she has to deal with small and big amounts of adversity. Her character has trouble expressing herself but in moments is able to show who she really is. It is a complex role for anyone and for a child actor, a seemingly impossible task.
It makes the film feel effortless and more than just a glimpse into a chaotic time for kids being raised in this generation. It transcends what it tries to portray to moviegoers and gives anyone who watches a nostalgic feeling for a time that may not have been so sweet.