Teen Angst Explored In Poignant Coming-Of-Age Dramedy
Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) is starting her last week of middle school, and graduation can’t come soon enough for her. After all, the lonely, 13-year-old has just been voted “Most Quiet” by her classmates, despite being desperate to make friends.
Nevertheless, she finds herself routinely ignored because she’s overweight, pimply and not from a prominent family. So, between being ostracized by the popular cliques and going unnoticed by the cute boy (Luke Prael) she has a crush on, Kayla leads a very solitary and unhappy existence.
It doesn’t help matters that she’s an only child, and that her well-meaning single-dad (Josh Hamilton) doesn’t have a clue about how to connect with a daughter growing up in the Digital Age. The two barely talk to each other at the dinner table. She just scrolls through social media on her cell between bites while grudgingly giving monosyllabic responses to his questions about how her day went.
However, we see a whole other side of Kayla as soon as she retreats to her bedroom where she hosts a show on her own YouTube channel. There, she doles out precocious advice daily to fellow teens on such topics as “How to be confident” and “Putting yourself out there,” invariably signing off with the optimistic exclamation, “Gucci!” Too bad she has a hard time conquering her own fears in real life.
For example, at her father’s insistence, she reluctantly attended the birthday pool party of Kennedy (Catherine Oliviere), a mean girl whose mother had extended the invitation. Kayla felt so uncomfortable after being teased about the present she brought and about how she looked in a bathing suit, that she called home to be picked up early.
Thus unfolds Eighth Grade, a haunting, coming-of-age dramedy marking the impressive writing and directorial debut of actor Bo Burnham (Rough Night). The film also features a breakout performance by Elsie Fisher who is oh so convincing as the beleaguered protagonist at the center of the story. One can’t help but cringe watching her tortured character’s palpable angst about being bullied.
A la Thirteen (2003) and Lady Bird (2017), Eighth Grade paints a poignant portrait of a tormented adolescent awkwardly negotiating a rite of passage.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality and mature themes
Running time: 94 minutes
Production Studios: A24 Films / Scott Rudin Productions
Distributor: A24 Films
OPENING THIS WEEK
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
For movies opening August 3, 2018
Christopher Robin (PG for action) Ewan McGregor handles the title role in this musical fantasy revolving around Winnie the Pooh’s pal’s (Jim Cummings) return as an adult to the forest which captured his imagination as a child. With Hayley Atwell, Brad Garrett Toby Jones and Sophie Okonedo.
The Darkest Minds (PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and mature themes) Adaptation of Alexandra Bracken’s futuristic best seller set in the U.S. in the wake of a pandemic which has killed 98 percent of children under 20, and where the survivors are being rounded up by the government. The plot revolves around the runaway teen (Amandla Stenberg) leading the resistance. Ensemble includes Harris Dickinson, Mandy Moore, Bradley Whitford, Patrick Gibson and Skylan Brooks.
Death of a Nation (PG-13 for profanity, violence, disturbing images, mature themes and brief drug use) Political documentary, written, directed and narrated by recently-pardoned, conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza, drawing parallels between the presidencies of Donald Trump and Abraham Lincoln. Featuring commentary by Debbie D’Souza and Angela Primm.
Eighth Grade (R for profanity and sexuality) Coming-of-age dramedy chronicling a tormented 13-year-old’s (Elsie Fisher) disastrous last week of middle school. With Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson and Missy Yager.
The Spy Who Dumped Me (R for violence, crude humor, pervasive profanity, graphic sexuality and frontal nudity) James Bond 007 spoof revolving around a couple of California BFFs (Kate McKinnon and Mila Kunis) who find themselves recruited as spies when one’s ex-boyfriend (Justin Theroux) shows up at their apartment unannounced with a team of assassins on his trail. Supporting cast includes Sam Heughan, Gillian Anderson and Ivanna Sakhno.
INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN
Calling All Earthlings (Unrated) Conspiracy theory documentary speculating about whatever happened to George Van Tassel and his Integratron, the time machine he was building in the California desert back in the Fifties until the FBI intervened. Featuring commentary by Daniel Boone, Victoria Williams and The Animals’ Eric Burdon.
King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen (Unrated) Reverential retrospective revisiting the career of maverick Larry Cohen, director of such Blaxploitation Era classics as Black Caesar, Hell Up in Harlem and Bone.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Unrated) Chloe Grace Moretz plays the title character in this adaptation of Emily M. Danforth’s coming-of-age novel of the same name, set in 1993, about a lesbian orphan forced by her aunt (Kerry Butler) to undergo conversion therapy after being caught kissing her high school’s prom queen (Quinn Shephard) in the back of a car. With Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck and Jennifer Ehle.
Never Goin’ Back (R for crude sexuality, pervasive profanity, brief nudity and drug use) Coming-of-age drama chronicling the madcap misadventures of a couple of suburban Dallas waitresses (Camila Morrone and Maia Mitchell) trying to relocate to Galveston. Supporting cast features Kyle Mooney, Aristotle Abraham II and Joel Allen.
Nico, 1988 (R for sexuality, profanity and drug use) “The good die young” biopic revisiting the last year in the life of Nico (Trine Dyrholm), the German singer/actress who fell on hard times after recording with the Velvet Underground and appearing in films directed by Fellini and Andy Warhol back in the Sixties. With John Gordon Sinclair, Karina Fernandez and Calvin Demba. (In English, German, French and Czech with subtitles.)