Eighth Grade follows Kayla (Elsie Fisher), a shy girl who strives to be confident, but reality makes it hard for her to fit in. She spends a great deal of her time on YouTube uploading vlogs with advice and tips for other people to be confident, or to fit in, or to be themselves. Yet Kayla can't seem to take her own advice, so many of her days include keeping to herself during school, awkward dinners with her father (Josh Hamilton) and late nights on Instagram, Snapchat or YouTube. After a pool party, and a few run-ins with the cutest boy in junior high, Kayla decides to get out there more and, before she graduates into high school, become the girl she says she is online.
This isn’t a typical comedy, but given that the man behind the camera is a comedian, you can expect a lot of laughs here. They aren't the usual gags in most studio comedies; they are timely, well thought out observations that make the film feel as if Burnham wrote it yesterday. The jokes and references to pop culture and social media trends are so current and authentic. For example, the principal of the school tries relating to the kids by ending his speech with a dab, or the sexual education teacher informs the kids that puberty is "Lit". It's cringe-worthy, but it's cringe-worthy in real life. It just works here. Never before has a film felt so authentic regarding kids and the digital era they are growing up in.
Josh Hamilton, Kayla's father starts out one note, it's not a bad note, he is great in the whole film, but he hits you in the gut with an emotional monologue towards the end that will be hard to get through with dry eyes. However, the real star is Elsie Fisher, as young Kayla. She just feels so real. She's awkward but it's never goofy or unbelievable. The way she trips over her words and flubs when she tries to be confident or her fast, nervous talking is just so damn perfect. If she doesn't get awards love this year it will be a damn tragedy.
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