With Oscar season now come and gone, we can finally weigh the bangs against the whimpers. There is always a tragic snub, a movie overlooked because it dropped the wrong weekend or drifted quietly into the social media nebula. Eighth Grade wasn’t any of that. It simply bloomed too early.
Eighth Grade’s star Elsie Fisher seems to suffer from the inverse of that problem, stepping on the toes of her entire reality with painful accuracy. It’s not just that she embodied the turmoil of jumping from the highest rung of the lowest grade set into the very pit of adolescence, but that she made us realize again how truly inadequate the word “adolescence” is for describing that awful (in every sense of that word) time in one’s life.
Yes, Eighth was released after its Sundance premiere to US theaters in July, which in social media years is about a decade. Yes, it nabbed an R rating which deterred some parents and angered its supporters because of the obvious and uninsightful obstacle. Yet none of that takes away from the sheer force of Elsie Fisher’s terrifying sincerity. We want to invite her to the party after the mean girls deny her and a note she writes one of them starts folding itself into a paper football in the corner of our eye. She brings the weight of your first house party to a pool party, where she meets that classic fatal crush. Wishing there was a way to show her the depth of her father’s love, we are wishing we could’ve seen it too.
Bo Burnham’s directorial debut is a shoe-gaze anthem for consent and mental health awareness, one I wish more friends would’ve told their friends about. Every artist understands the foolishness of award ceremonies – there’s no way to quantify the impact of art and that is part of its magic. But now that we all have uttered a collective “okedoke” after watching Green Book, cried tears you might have been chemically set up for during A Star Is Born, I can confidently say Eighth deserved a place in that temporal, but important pantheon of Best Picture nominees. No other film made me feel like my soul was trying to sneak quietly as it could out of my throat the way that “car scene” did in Eighth Grade, except maybe the guttural last 30 minutes of BlacKkKlansman.
Something primal but not doe-eyed fills every frame that we follow Kayla Day into, the vlog series reinforcing how little connection we get through social media and just how deep our need is. The quirky steps she takes to discover her sexuality, how hilarious and desperate our grasps for intimacy are never feel like something to look down upon in this movie. It’s something we’re all firmly seated in, for better or worse, at the mercy of growing up just like Kayla.
Do we need another coming of age film? We don’t. Do we need more honest takes on timeless realities? We unfortunately do. We are forever in short supply of films like these because reality is hard to come by. Does Meryl Streep really have any more shelf space in her throne room anyways? Eighth Grade is my 2018 Snub of the Year, may the word Gucci never resound in the hearts of the Academy.
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