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Chris Kavan's Movie Reviews (3348)

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Eighth Grade 
Seeing the World Through Different Eyes
3.5/4 stars

No matter the medium - books, video games, film, I have found that the ones that stick with me the most are those that do the best job of crafting a compelling story from the point-of-view of a character that may be completely opposite of myself, but presenting it in such a way that feels organic, natural and just plain real.

Bo Burnham has done that with Eighth Grade and Elsie Fisher (who literally graduated from eighth grader herself, weeks before shooting this film) is perfectly cast as Kayla, the every-day teen just trying to get by in a social media-obsessed world. Fisher gives the most natural performance I have seen in a long time, whether it's in the relationship with her dad (played by Josh Hamilton), her attempt at crafting meaningful self-help vblogs or just simply trying to fit in at her school. In this media-focused world where your worth is seemingly more based on likes and looks, she is left, as she states late in the movie, "nervous all the time".

I know what it's like to be a teen - I went through it, but while I might complain about how much easier kids have it these days, it also boggles my mind how much tougher things are for them as well. Though Eighth Grade doesn't get into things line online harassment or shaming, the simple fact that Snap Chat and Instagram and Youtube are ingrained into children at such a young age is kind of crazy. The film does touch on subjects like sexting as well as presenting a false persona in order to fit into what society thinks you should be - heavy subjects, but ones that are more important than ever. I don't think youth realize how much they do online can affect their future - things they say - pictures they share and that popularity online won't necessarily lead to bigger and better things.

The film also does a great job of showing that connecting with these people these days seems easier than ever, but by having most relationships via computer or cell phone screens actually seems to be driving people further and further apart. Once again, this is shown in the relationship between Kayla and her father, as well as trying to get the attention of her crush Aiden (Luke Prael) or attempting to forge some kind of memorable interaction with "it" girl Kennedy (Catherine Oliviere). It is telling that the closest relationship she forms in the film is with the equally awkward Gabe (Jake Ryan) and the bubbly high school girl she's assigned to follow, Olivia (Emily Robinson). These are the only two people who talk to her like a person as opposed to a persona - and at least the film gives hope that Kayla can find a meaningful relationship in this world.

Eighth Grade would not, on the surface, seemed to be a film that would appeal to an audience outside the target demographic, but I think that would be a sad oversight. The look into this world through the eyes of a strictly normal individual is not only engrossing, but surprisingly emotional and dare I say, deep. One of the best pure performances of the year and one that shouldn't be missed.


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