Eighth Grade review by Drusilla Blakey
There are so many films that come along that deal with real life issues and struggle, but it seems more often than not those stories dealing with younger kids get more of a humorous treatment. The latest Eighth Grade looks to bring a more realistic approach to the real struggles at this age, but does it manner to capture the realism or should it be held back?
Eighth Grade follows an introverted teenage girl who tries to survive the last week of her disastrous eighth grade year before leaving to start high school. As the movie begins, we are introduced to Kayla through one of her online videos and the most striking thing is her lack of basic grammar and sentence structure skills! But, since kids communicate more via text and emoji it's not a huge surprise that they can't make coherent sentences. But immediately we see that she is pretending to be something she is not! That, combined with those awkward teenage years made for a very intriguing story that felt to me, like a sad story of a sweet little girl trying to find her place in the world.
I found it sad in the sense that young people today are trying to find their value and worth through Instagram, YouTube, or Facebook "likes". They aren't really exploring who they are, or what they enjoy. Instead they are constantly trying to be what they think will attract attention and vying for that constant approval. Because we are getting a bird’s eye view of this story through our main character, Kayla, it is at times painful and heartbreaking to see how isolated and awkward she is. Her only real interaction with other kids is via social media and I think as adults we are able to realize that social media isn't really real all the time. But to her and the other kids in her Eighth Grade class, this is what being social is all about and I honestly found that to be very sad and disheartening.
Now, although the story and subject matter were interesting, I found the movie to be very slow at times. It's not really fun, or funny, nor do the main characters do anything amazing, or outstanding. The only light moments come from Kaylas' dad as he tries to relate to her with his attempts at being 'hip' which of course we know, dads aren't always good at. This movie made me happy that my kids are past this age and also relieved that we waited for a long time before allowing them to have cell phones. Poor kids these days have no idea about 'the real world' and our main character, beautifully portrayed by Elsie Fisher, gets herself into some precarious situations because she has a fantasy idea about the world as seen through social media goggles.
I think that this is an important film for all to watch, especially parents with teenaged children. Please take your kids to watch this and then, have a discussion with them about their own value, self-worth, importance, etc.