eighth gradeA24
2018
R

“Do I make you sad? I don’t know. Sometimes I think that when I’m older, I’ll have a daughter of my own or something…and I feel like if she was like me, then being her mom would make me sad all the time. I’d love her because she’s my daughter, but I think if she turned out like me that being her mom would make me really sad.”

Once in a while, I tend to have a momentary lapse of reason, and decide to watch what most normal people would term a “good movie”. Which, usually turns out to be some kind of drama/comedy hybrid that’s equal parts quirky as well as going for the feels. You know, more “real life”, than being anything like escapist fantasy, that let you forget real life and all its woes LIKE MOVIES ARE SUPPOSED TO DO.

Sorry. Got a bit emotional, there. Darn it, though.

Anyway, the last time this happened, it was the movie Lady Bird. Now, during the three months that I was laid out for health issues, I decided to watch the critically acclaimed drama/comedy (a “dramady”, if you will) Eighth Grade.

Since the movie description blurb from the back of the DVD cover is two-thirds ego-stroking writer/director Bo Bumham and his inspirations making what is essentially his first directorial debut, I’m going to go ahead and describe the movie myself:

So, there’s this 13-year-old girl named Kayla, and she’s finishing up her final week of her Eighth Grade year. So, at least we don’t have to follow this mopey kid around for the entire school year. Bonus, that. Anyway, Kayla has a bit of a hobby posting videos of herself on her YouTube channel, motivational stuff about confidence and self-image and other sanctimonious know-it-all crap that only a barely-a-teenager is capable of. Of course, in real life, it’s a case of not practicing what she preaches, as she’s a terminally shy kid who struggles to make friends but mostly keeps to herself. Then again, the individuals she’s trying to impress are self-absorbed wankers, so she may actually be better off being the wallflower in this situation. Worked for me. Anyway, at home she’d rather dwell on social media, burying her nose in her phone at all times, rather than connecting with her single father, who’s only trying to do the best he can considering the circumstances. She goes to a birthday party she didn’t really want to go to at first, but then has a bit of fun near the end of the party. Then she tries to impress the “hot guy” in her class by lying about having nude photos of herself during a terrorist drill (seriously), then we see her bond with a high school girl while visiting the school she is going to go to after the Summer Vacation. She meets the high school girl and some of her friends at the mall to hang out (they still do that? I thought malls went the way of the buffalo since Amazon killed them off? Or is this one of those retro-nostalgic revival things, like vinyl records or common sense?), then, while catching a ride back home with said high schoolers, she manages to rebuff the advances of one of the boys trying to get her nekkid. At home, she breaks down and makes a video announcing that she intends to stop making videos (irony?), then, after watching an old video of herself in sixth grade sending her future eighth grade self a message, she burns all of her nostalgia memories and reconnects with her father. We end with her making a video for her 18-year-old self in the future. And the cycle begins anew, folks…

You can probably tell by my recounting of this movie that, due to being in my mid-40s and having ceased to actually care what the young people think, feel and care about well over a decade ago (it’s a liberating thing, really; embrace your middle age, people) that I don’t really fall within the THIS IS THE BESTEST MOVIE OF 2018, IF NOT THE HISTORY OF INDEPENDENT CINEMA! camp. I doubt anyone would have thought I would have. And unless the movie is directed by Wes Anderson or Cameron Crowe, chances are I’m not going to get too interested in one of those slice-of-life films.

Mind you, Eighth Grade isn’t a bad film. It’s very well made, the cinematography is really good, and for the most part the actors were realistically engaging. For the most part. The teen characters were portrayed well; it was the adult characters that I had a bit of a bone to pick with. In this movie, they all come off as trying too hard to, shall we say, come off as hip and happening, like Kayla’s father always saying things are cool and trying to be the fun dad when she’s just being a sullen brat to him for no reason, or the teachers who affect the slang of the day, like “lit” and whatever else the kids are using that no longer mean what they meant when I was a teenager. Seriously, I struggle sometimes to keep my glossary up-to-date.

So then, in closing, overall, Eight Grade is a good movie, yes, but not the kind that a weirdo like me would actually seek out had it not been for the peer pressure of friends and associates who only watch “good” movies. For me, well…they say that a sure sign that your childhood is over is when you begin siding with the adults in youth-centric movies like this.

Quite frankly, I’m more than okay with that.