Eighth Grade: The Unbearable Heaviness

Bo Burnham’s movie Eighth Grade has a high rating on Rotten Tomatoes but not 100%.

Whether or not that is deserved is your personal preference but whenever a movie is doing really well on that website I LOVE to go read the comments of the reviewers who populate the negative side of the column and see if they have actual feelings about it as apposed to hating it for the chance to be singular. Hating haters feels so full circle.

Here is this article written by a lady whom I’d probably get along with in real life based on her spewing vitriol as it’s kinda also my thing.

The articles title: The unbearable heaviness of Bo Burnham’s ‘Eighth Grade’

In Eighth Grade, writer and director Bo Burnham depicts the female tween experience with such painful accuracy that it literally made me nauseous. I had to get up more than once during the viewing and pace the hallways of the theater, catch up on texts with friends, take deep breaths and steel myself to return.

So. You didn’t watch parts of the movie? Okie doke. I’ll make sure to skip the next few paragraphs of your article and then still try and eviscerate it so we’re matching! 

So far, the movie’s been universally lauded by critics, who are mesmerized by the film’s awkward realism, and most of all, mesmerized by Elsie Fisher as Kayla, its earnest, insecure and ultimately loveable protagonist.

Stop the presses, because I think you might secretly love this movie.

Everything you’ve heard is true; this really is the most realistic depiction of early teen angst I’ve ever seen on screen. Viewers are perpetually astonished by Kayla’s realistic demeanor and speech, which includes a lot of likes and ums, age-appropriate acne, difficulty looking people in the eye and a palpable anxiety.

But like I said before, the movie made me want to throw up. I was the opposite of entertained. I felt like I was getting drilled at the dentist in the center of a middle school gymnasium with kids pointing and laughing at me while opening mail about a bill past due and also on fire — and so, how can I possibly recommend this putrid experience to you?

Oh okay cool, sorry, I was unaware that your own glaring insecurities could make a movie objectively worse. Still think you love it, by the way.

We first meet Kayla while she films a YouTube video for her floundering real-talk vlog. Today’s topic: Being Yourself. You know, like not doing what everybody else is doing in order to be cool or whatever. It’s the last week of eighth grade, and besides the school shooting drills and ubiquitous cell phones, not much has changed since my own middle school horror show days, circa 1995.

…What? The outside is 100% different while humans don’t change, I believe is what you’re looking for here. You’re projecting so hard right now the light bulb in the projector is gonna burn out.

Children this age are essentially hormone-spewing monsters, which we see in chaotic classrooms and school assemblies refereed by exhausted teachers. It’s like what Mark says to Dawn in 1995’s Welcome to the Dollhouse, (pardon me, better movie): “High school is better. It’s closer to college. They’ll call you names, but not as much to your face.”

Movies from the 90’s were better because they happened a long time ago and I’m better for knowing they exist. 

At home, Kayla’s raised by a goofy, well-intentioned father (Josh Hamilton) who practices infinite patience with a daughter who we are meeting at the apex of her cruelty. I know Kayla can’t help but take out her social frustrations on a father who’s done nothing but sacrifice and support her, and phones are more interesting than dinner conversations, but still, these father-daughter interactions are not an easy thing to endure.

Don’t worry I am also still getting my Dad to love me, I just, ya know, don’t apply that feeling to the movies I watch to make me feel better about my misplaced hate. Is all.

What else is there to say?

Enough that you kept writing after you wrote this sentence.

Everything else you’re guessing might be present in a plot like this exists: Kayla likes the hottest guy in school, who mostly (but not entirely!) ignores her. But let’s not discount the affable goof hanging out on the film’s periphery. There are end-of-the-year pool parties, bathing suit panic attacks and embarrassments followed by genuine triumphs. And listen: Put down your tweet, folks. I’m aware that this is empirically a good movie and I’m basically incorrect and maybe even cowardly for my inability to stomach these plaintive truths.

I’ll do you one better and blog about it. I showed you! Also, you just said you liked the film. You didn’t, but you did. You’re aware that its good but it knocked on your feelings too hard for it to be good. I cringed during this movie a lot. Closed my eyes even. Because it put a mirror up in front of me and I was like hey, get that out of there, I’m disappointed in myself all the time and also there is a glare off that reflective surface that is making it hard to see the road while I rage type this. I’m not really driving, everything is okay. 

But might I posit that perhaps our premium on awkward indie realism is just a tad high?

I’d prefer it if you didn’t. See, now I’m letting my feelings get the better of me. I’m not better than you.

When you strip away this one poignant element, there’s not a lot left to the movie but a familiar coming-of-age trajectory and pretty bland, forgettable dialogue.

You’re the coolest girl this side of her own inferiority complex.

If you want to be reminded of the tortures of your youth, by all means, Eighth Grade is the picture for you. This summer movie season, you could see Ethan Hunt pilot a helicopter into a mountain to save humanity from nuclear holocaust, or you can watch a young person Google how to give a blow job. There’s room enough in cinema for all types of feelings.

Can Ethan Hawk pilot that same helicopter into your subconscious and lighten the mental load you’re currently dealing with that didn’t allow you to gain solace from this pretty bland coming of age tale?

My guess is no.

I disagree with you but also not really because you literally said the movie is good and then continued to complain about it which honestly is so me so I get it.

We’re very similar. We should make a movie about us for someone in Tennessee to hate and blog about. Deal? Deal. 

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