By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
If you poll just about any young adult these days and ask them what the absolute worst period of their life was, you’re as likely as not going to hear “Eighth Grade”.
Mean Girls is Real
Eighth Grade follows Kayla as she navigates that uniquely difficult year full of saying goodbye to classmates that have made your life hell the preceding 3-4 years, trying to reinvent herself in time to impress them or make a few friends before they’re gone, and looking forward to High School and all the terrifying and exciting things that promises to hold.
Eighth Grade starts out pretty unpromising with an extremely awkward YouTube video in a series where Kayla gives life advice that Burnham quickly juxtaposes ironically with how little she’s able to actually follow it. It culminates in her favorite sign off- “Gucci!”
Yeah, it pains me, too.
That video series quickly becomes the backbone of the film in an unexpected way, though, as she starts to put herself out there more in an attempt to follow her own common sense advice, for fairly undramatic for the most part good and ill. This isn’t a film that interests itself in high drama, nostalgia, or parable- instead it’s like Kayla herself, funny, relatable, just… real in a refreshingly non-cynical way.
What Burnham’s achieved here (with an excellent eye for visuals and polish, it must be noted) is a film that just doesn’t move like any other coming of age drama you’ve seen, even when it feints in the direction of genre conventions. He’s made a film about an eighth grader that is affirming and beautiful simply because it’s exactly what it purports to be- a film about just another eighth grader.
Make no mistake, Eighth Grade is often nails on a chalkboard awkward, which is very much the point. The one scene that pushed it a bit too far was one in which Kayla is listening to music and fucking around on her phone at the dinner table, yelling at her Dad whenever he tried to interrupt her by making conversation.
It legitimately had me clenching my teeth- I… am not patient enough to be a parent, but her Dad is God-level patient in this.
Eighth Grade is just so goddamn nice, a nice film about a nice girl going through a difficult time that will look familiar to many of us.
Eighth Grade (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: “Gucci!”
Take a Drink: whenever you ponder whether sparing the rod is spoiling the children
Take a Drink: whenever an adult does something embarrassing to relate to the youths
Do a Shot: every time the Aiden musical cue plays