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‘Eighth Grade’ is a Great Movie, But a Not-So-Great Experience

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The new movie “Eighth Grade” has received praise from audiences and critics alike, receiving a 98 percent from critics and 93 percent from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, it has grossed over $1.6 million at the box office as of July 28. The Sundance festival favorite is a coming of age story, written and directed by former Viner, Bo Burnham. The movie takes us through the eyes of Kayla (played by Elsie Fisher), a 13-year old eighth grade YouTuber, who faces challenges socially and mentally, her insights on her last week of middle school and her transition to high school.

What I Think

The movie’s writing is decent but has some flaws. Kayla’s YouTube channel is really interesting. The way she portrays herself in real life is nothing like how she does on social media. In real life, she’s a shy person who does not bring too much attention to herself, but on YouTube, she gives advice on how to be a confident and outgoing person. This contrast is great commentary that made me recognize how teens, and even adults, portray themselves on social media, including myself. We give this sense of false reality, showing only the highlights of our lives, when in reality, we all go through negative events.

Another aspect of the movie I appreciated is the pool party scene. The scene is something I actually relate to. Kayla’s insecurity of going into the pool is totally understandable. A ton of people, yet alone teens, gathering in a large hole filled with water is something that sounds nerve-racking. My only negative about that scene is Gabe, the kid who likes Kayla, is honestly annoying. Although Gabe’s character (played by Jake Ryan) is well-acted, his character comes off as your average weird kid who likes the protagonist, and earns their love toward the end of the movie. Gabe’s character development is very poor as well. Aside from liking Kayla, he had few other characteristics. But his character isn’t the only character in the movie with poor development. The main antagonist, Olivia (played by Emily Robinson), is very generic. It’s something we’ve all seen before: the girl who’s always on her phone, has a nicer house than the protagonist, and has that one friend who mimics everything she does. It’s overused and kind of obnoxious. Although generic, I totally did have this type of girl at my middle school (I’m totally not @ing anyone…).

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One thing “Eighth Grade” accomplishes is capturing the experience of eighth grade (at least my experience). In the movie, eighth grade is total hell for Kayla, and that’s exactly how it was for me. When I remember my eighth grade year, I can only remember the negative. It was really depressing and challenging, and that’s exactly what I felt for Kayla in the movie. The loneliness Kayla felt at times was something I can relate to. If this is what director-writer Bo Burnham is trying to accomplish, he’s spot on. Watching the movie, I felt what Kayla felt, a feeling of vulnerability and emptiness. But just like what’s said in the movie, it does get a lot better in high school.

What An Actual Eighth-grader Thinks

Jack Kast, 14, is a rising high school freshman who will attend Grady High School this fall and a former eighth-grader at Inman Middle School, rated the movie on its accuracy of his middle school experience and what he could relate to. “The depiction of eighth grade in the movie was kind of extreme,” he said. “I could relate to some of the things she went through, like scrolling through Instagram and feeling lonely,” he added. His favorite part of the movie was when Kayla gained confidence in herself, and came to terms that her life wasn’t and will never be perfect.

Overall, “Eighth Grade,” is a mixed bag. The movie’s pace is too fast in some parts, but too slow in others. Although there are some flaws, I found the movie to be a very accurate depiction of eighth grade, which is probably why I didn’t enjoy it that much. Even though I didn’t enjoy it, I would still recommend people see this movie. The movie has jokes that are mostly pretty funny, has a really likable main character, and is a great coming to age story.

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Terell WrightTerell Wright is a 15-year-old sophomore at Walnut Grove High School. He is a teen staffer at VOX Teen Communications and a student columnist for the Walton Tribune.

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