It’s totally weird to watch a movie where you identify with both parent and kid — but that’s where I was at while watching Bo Burnham’s superb Eighth Grade: simultaneously identifying with, and tbh, crushing on, goofy, lovable dad Mark (Josh Hamilton) and feeling the extreme, angsty pain of Kayla (Elsie Fisher – goodgod THIS KID), who’s just trying to get through her last week of eighth grade so she can make it to something even more awful: High School.
My heart exploded all over the place watching Kayla navigate the awkwardness of middle school relationships, try desperately to find her BFF, and freeze completely whenever the object of her lust — a skinny, floppy-haired kid named Aiden — crossed her path. Kayla is just trying SO HARD to be popular, projecting who she aspires to be into a barely viewed YouTube account, but no matter what she does she can’t seem to break into cool girl Kennedy’s circle and it’s slowly breaking her down.
But when she meets high school senior Olivia, things seem to turn around. Olivia assures Kayla she’s awesome, and that things will change as soon as she leaves middle school behind. Kayla finally starts to feel like the confident and cool girl she’s aspiring to be in her vlogs… right up until the point she’s confronted with her first experience with an older teenage boy. OMG that was TOO REAL. Too goddamn real.
Although it’s been quite some time since I was actually there, my brain slipped right back into the halls of Eisenhower Middle School as I shrank down into my seat, pulled my sweater cuffs over my fingers, and remembered the exquisite torture of being a 13-year-old girl. Sure, Kayla has her iPhone attached to her at all times, a YouTube account, and Snapchat, but I could still see myself in her. And I know I wasn’t the only one — there’s a fantastic moment where Kayla stands her ground, and the entire audience clapped and cheered.
As a side note: it’s somewhat comforting to know that middle school band hasn’t changed at all in 33 years — and those buses! Same green seats; same patched holes. Our education system clearly needs a dramatic increase in funding, ASAP.
Just for fun (?!), here’s me dressed up for my eighth grade graduation dance (1985 – our theme was, get this, “We Are the World”), going solo because no boys asked me (it’s complicated), and also because I wanted to be strong and let them know they didn’t beat me — aka: 8th grade was a really, really, REALLY rough year:
Thanks a fucking lot for making me relive it, Bo Burnham.
(no, but seriously, this movie is great! go see it)