Hey guys, it’s Joe and I’m like back with another blog post. This post is about Eighth Grade which is like this coming of age film. So yeah umm… it should be a really good post for sure. I’ve noticed that not many people have been reading my blog, so if you could like share and subscribe to it, that would be like, really cool.
Did I do it? Did I sound like a 13-year-old? The above paragraph is an introduction into the world of Kayla, our focus in this coming of age film. Now, I’m not hugely into these types of films (cough *Boyhood*). But occasionally, they can be brilliant (cough *Ladybird*). Eighth Grade feels like the coming of age film for Generation Z, the young people of 2019, the generation who are growing up in this immersive world of technology. It doesn’t really feel like any other films which have a greater focus on parental relationships. It’s very narrow in what it tries to do as young director Bo Burnham tries to send a message across to both kids and adults about the struggles of growing up in the technology age.
Kayla (Ellie Fisher) has two personas. Firstly, we see her Youtube one in which she tries to sound “super-chill” and give sound advice. Apparently this is how kids do youtube. It wasn’t, when I was that age and made masterpieces. Anyhow, she also does that annoying thing where you put make up on, do your hair and put on a snapchat filter on your insta like “Oh my god, I woke up like this.” [Jesus, I sound old]. This contrasts with her off screen persona where she is timid as a mouse. We hardly see her speak for 15 minutes off camera and she is shocked when she gets the “Quietest in the year Award” [Does anyone actually want that? Why is it even an award]. After this, she wants to be a bit cooler and make friends. However, she struggles to do this and this is where the movie hits its stride.
All of these kids are very self-conscious and feel hyper-insecure. This is only increased by the constant presence of social media. It’s a convenient thing to hide behind. The kids who aren’t glued to their phones are made to look like outsiders in this film and Kayla doesn’t bother with them. Instead, she tries to become BFFs with Kennedy (Which is a girl’s name) who is like sooo cool. But she is glued to her phone and is put off by Kayla’s very normal behaviour. Kayla also fancies the coolest kid in the year, and Burnham makes it clear that he’s a bit of a dick by making him wear a Man United shirt. This film deserves credit. It could be so easy to do the bullying trope, but instead it goes with isolation in a more connected world and that’s really to its credit.
The movie shows her as normal, but she see’s herself as an outsider and it’s tough to see her go through. This film will make you laugh. It will also make you cringe and feel of sadness.
Adults are used in a unique way in this film. While shown to be caring, they also don’t understand. This is most obvious when one decides to dab in celebration [+1 cinema sin]. This is most striking with her father, who cares for her, but she decides to hide behind her phone and not talk to him. Whether this is due to him not understanding, or her feeling vulnerable to the environment outside of her, this is difficult to watch as you feel annoyed and sorry for her at the same time.
The dialogue throughout is smart. The kids sound natural, and every line adds something to the story. At one point, a high schooler (17y/o) states how different Kayla’s generation is to his and shows the isolation the generation feel. In another powerful scene we see Kayla compare what she wanted to be to what she became. Any emotions she hides are well reflected in her YouTube videos and if not, they are portrayed well in the music. The soundtrack was phenomenal.
The cinematography is also great, particularly in the use of lighting. The blue light from the screen makes Kayla look pale and ghostly, compared to in the real world where she should be happier. The screen offers solitude and another worldliness.
This film doesn’t try to paint technology as fundamentally good or bad. What it does try to do is consider the anxieties of this generation and how they deal with technology.
So, what could have been done better?
I’m going to cut this film slack. It obviously needed to be made to appeal to eighth graders so couldn’t be too dark (We don’t want another 13 reasons why), but it felt like they only scraped some issues and didn’t dive deeply enough into them. I’d also suggest that while Kayla was dynamic, all of the people around her felt very static and unaffected by her actions, especially her Dad and some of the people she talked to more. However, this maybe to show they are more obsessed with their phones than the world around them. The emotions felt rather spoon fed and on the nose.
While at the end, she says she has developed, I didn’t quite feel this and really wanted some proof of this. Yes she did something, but we saw no consequence. This film could’ve been very good if it had gone on for another 20 minutes, but cut it off while everything was only okay. It felt like the investment we made in Kayla wasn’t fully realised. But like I said, considering this is a film that teenagers and their parents can watch together, it hits a reasonable balance.
Eighth Grade is an intellegent look into some of the problems that this generation face. It’s not a lecture to kids or adults, but a reflection and an explanation. While it feels like it doesn’t go as far as it could, it does well trying to cater to all audiences.
Are you thinking of going? Or did you go? Let me know what you thought of the film below.
Anyway, thank you for like reading my blog. Don’t forget to umm… share and subscribe. Gucci [Nando’s emoji].