REVIEW: Bo Burnham's Directorial Debut Packs the Emotional Punch Needed, While Still Remaining Fun and Delicate
Yesterday, I was able to go to an early screening of A24’s latest movie, Eighth Grade, comedian Bo Burnham’s directorial debut. Sitting in the theater, I was absolutely blown away. A24 delivered with the heart, the comedy, and the social awkwardness that the real eighth grade entails. The interactions between the characters alone feel so incredibly natural and well thought out. For a freshman director, Bo Burnham absolutely knocks it out of the park in what is one of A24's freshest films yet.
Just one of many things that makes this coming-of-age outing so impressive is that it’s not only edited to perfection, (a lot of narration is created by using the main character Kayla’s in-universe YouTube videos and playing them over the ongoing events in the film), but also some perfect camera work and great cinematography throughout. The wide range of emotions that this realistic, creatively written, and brutally well acted film are incredible to say the least. The cast gives the film their all, with every actor big and small delivering a realistic and gritty approach to the material.
Elsie Fisher of Despicable Me fame really proves herself as a seasoned actor in this, and has amazing chemistry with all of the other cast members, but specifically Josh Hamilton as Kayla’s father and Emily Robinson as Olivia, who are both also phenomenal in this film as usual. I’ve heard from interviews that this film used a lot of horror movie techniques for the more tense and suspenseful moments, and that payed off completely in my opinion, because there were multiple scenes where the audience was completely silent and tense. Watching it on day one at the SIFF theatre in Seattle, this was a loud crowd, and this was actually a more special theatre experience than most, as the crowd was incredibly active.
This film is also by far the best comedy of the year, and I’m not sure if anything will top it. The jokes never felt out of place or unfunny, (give or take one awkward Rick and Morty joke), and often used the authentic and awkward environment the film creates for itself and uses that to its advantage when executing the comedic moments. The theatre was often full of laughter, to the point where I would be missing a line of dialogue or two. It’s also full of meaningful commentary on living in a modern environment, from the hazards, and also the benefits of our society today. It’s a film that acknowledges that that teens are smarter and exposed more to the real world, and how frightening that can be; corrupted innocence, if I had to describe it in two words.
Themes of growing up and friendship, naturally, are a large part of this story, and they really do make the film so heartwarming. I’d say this project probably has some of the most fluent pacing of the year, with moments that flow right into each other as if you were watching Kayla’s day to day life unfold on screen. There was never a moment where the audience was bored.
Overall, A24's latest is full of rich drama, fueled by an authentic and realistic casing, that is filled with clever and beautiful writing, as well as so many laughs through the film’s 94 minute runtime. This film turned out being one of my favorites of 2018 so far, and if it’s showing anywhere near you, do whatever you can to check it out!