Eighth Grade

Show of hands: Who wants to live through eighth grade again?

I don’t see very many hands there.

By now I’m sure you’ve heard of Eighth Grade, Bo Burnham’s all-too-real coming-of-age movie. Billed as a comedy, it’s mostly uncomfortable and awkward, with occasional comic moments. Just like eighth grade, right? And that’s what makes it such a good movie. Although a work of fiction, it captures all the details of real adolescents — and parents! — in true-to-life details. Protagonist Kayla cheerfully gives good advice in her vlog, advice that she is unable to follow but clearly believes in.

The New York Times review by Manohla Dargis is well worth reading. Here is a brief excerpt that tells you something about the movie and something about the review:

The pool party is a squirmy tour de force embellished with a punctuating zoom and a plangent sense of dread that make Kayla’s isolation feel like alienation. From the way that she walks into the party — she scans the scene like a soldier heading into battle, clutching her middle as if already wounded — it’s evident that Kayla believes everyone is looking at her. What makes the scene more uncomfortable and touching is that as she wades into the suffocating surge of the cute and popular, no one even notices her. (The one attendee who does is a nerd delightfully played by Jake Ryan.) It’s a brutal scene and might have been unbearably painful if Mr. Burnham didn’t love Kayla so much.

As a teacher of slightly older kids IRL, of course I couldn’t help seeing some of my own students in this movie. And the slight age difference doesn’t matter all that much, since first-semester ninth-graders are not much older than second-semester eighth-graders, and even that difference is somewhat canceled out by the fact that those ninth-graders are self-consciously the youngest students in the high school. I don’t know any student who is exactly like this particular Kayla, but I know quite a few who embody one or another of her characteristics. If you know any eighth-graders, or if you used to be one, or if you’re the parent of a former or future eighth-grader, see this movie!



Categories: Movies & (occasionally) TV, Teaching & Learning