When a film is released the same day as Avengers Endgame, this raises two possibilities in my mind- Either this film is so amazing and low budget that it can go up against what will probably become the biggest film of all time and turn a profit from parents who want to see something whilst little Timmy is distracted by all the CGI.
OR, it’s a bad idea to have the unpaid intern decide your films release date.
And having seen the film then I can confidently answer… (Drum-roll)
Eighth Grade is an incredible piece of film-making which would normally have an audience of maybe twelve people but because of the unpaid intern is going to get one of maybe 6. Although I get the feeling that a lot of secondary schools will be buying copies.
Because culturally this film is worth about 100 Endgames. It’s a film about coming of age (which I don’t recommend. I did it once, it sucked and I had it a hundred times easier than today’s kids) owing to the ubiquity of social media sites.
But also, this film, I think represents something of the beginnings of a sea change in the film industry. The writer/Director Robert Pickering “Bo” Burnham began his performance career as a YouTuber. The lead actress Elsie Fisher was discovered on YouTube athough she has previously starred as one of the interchangeable girls in Dispacable Me). Hell, Steven Spielberg recently announced that the role of Maria in his new version of West Side Story has gone to Rachel Zegler a 17-year-old whose highest-profile stage experience to date was her school production of Shrek. But Zegler has thousands of subscribers on her YouTube channel, where she’s been belting out pop covers and showtunes.
Performing to the camera is a part of everyday life for this generation, and a YouTube channel is a permanent showreel – edited, curated and subject to the demands of the medium to be sure, but for the time being, an authentic showcase for raw talent. Old Hollywood practices such as the “screen test”, the “audition” or the “talent scout” seem quaintly redundant in this new realm. It could spell the end for a whole tier of middlemen, not to mention that other notorious tool of movie-industry exploitation, the “casting couch”. None of which I feel are going to be missed by anyone who isn’t part of this system already.
Back to Eighth Grade though and it’s lead actress gives an amazing performance as someone trying to navigate what can be a very awkward and character forming part of life. And a certain scene towards the end (during which time the lighting budget had apparently run out) set in a car had me squirming in my seat.
As you may have guessed, social media plays a huge, almost overwhelming role in the film. The main character is a YouTuber, more comfortable communicating with people via technology than in real life- especially with her father and I don’t think any film has used “Orinoco Flow” by Enya to better effect.
Don’t go into this film expecting something as slick as mean girls, this film is more naturalistic and understated than that. It feels very realistic and as something that could have happened to me or someone I know. As a coming of age film I think this could become a classic if people ever actually hear about it, but as a film about coming of age during this modern cyber age it could well become indispensable.
Surprisingly, as someone who normally avoids coming of age films I can truly recommend this film. smiled at some parts, reminisced at others and squirmed when that scene in the car happened.
Stupidly though, it has a 15 rating in the UK thanks to profanity and some more ‘mature’ aspects of coming of age it’s not going to be seen by the audience that needs it the most.
Because it was released against Avengers where it received no oxygen and this week has at least ten films coming out meaning it’s going to be lost in the shuffle.
What a shame.
My Score See It.