If you’re familiar with the stand-up comedy of Bo Burnham, you might not peg him to be the first candidate to write an emotion-driven comedy about a socially awkward eighth-grade girl who is trying to find her place in a world that she feels has no interest in getting to know her. But ever since its premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, Burnham’s Eighth Grade has been one of the most eagerly anticipated and critically acclaimed independent movies of the year, making its way through the festival circuit and now finally opening to wider audience beginning this weekend (the film is currently in very limited release in New York and Los Angeles).
Eighth Grade doesn’t adhere to a conventional, plot-driven structure, instead allowing Burnham and acting newcomer Elsie Fisher to piece together a compelling and inspirational character study of young Kayla, who lives with her well-meaning, single father (Josh Hamilton) and makes what she probably believes are inspirational YouTube videos about being yourself and having confidence—neither of which Kayla feels comfortable doing. But it becomes clear that these videos are more about boosting her own sense of worth in the world. Burnham places Kayla in a series of scarily authentic and believable situations, some of which make her wildly uncomfortable, while others give her (and the audience) hope that she’s on the verge of breaking out of her shell and becoming the young woman she imagines she is once she hits high school. It’s a film that walks the line between tragedy and comedy with such grace that you might think a more seasoned filmmaker had pulled it off.
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I didn’t discover Bo Burnham when his YouTube videos went viral and he began performing at age 16. I saw him sing “Art is Dead” on The Green Room with Paul Provenza and loved the music and statement so much that I bought his stand-up album, Words Words Words, to hear more. I thought his wordplay was the second coming of George Carlin, so I’ve followed him ever since and went back and caught up his pre-Words releases, too.
So when Bo Burnham became a filmmaker, I couldn’t wait to see what he had to say in this medium. Eighth Grade deals with the same sort of youth issues as Burnham’s early work – Kayla (Elsie Fisher) is graduating eighth grade and trying to get accepted by high school kids.
Burnham spoke with /Film in Los Angeles about his feature film and stand-up work. He’s actually played short sets since directing to begin working new material. Previous stand-up, including his latest full show Make Happy, are streaming on Netflix. Eighth Grade is in theaters Friday, July 13, 2018.
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Any adult will tell you that middle school is one of the most awful parts of adolescence. Faces explode with acne, hormones are raging, conversations are awkward, and everyone sucks. So comedian Bo Burnham decided to make his feature writing and directorial debut recounting just how awful that time in all of our lives was with a wonderful, lively movie called Eighth Grade, and just like that we have a fresh new voice on the page and behind the camera. Read More »
While the fresh hellscape that is every day of 2018 brings a new nightmare multiple times a day, the movies this year have provided us some kind of escape. As usual, some of those movies have done it better than others, and that’s why members of the /Film team are counting down their favorite movies of the year at the halfway point of 2018. Now it’s my turn.
In order to qualify for our lists, obviously we had to have seen the movie already, but the movie didn’t have to be released before the midway point of the year. As long a movie has a release date for 2018, it’s eligible. So let’s get down to the wide variety of movies that impressed me enough to make my Top 10 Movies of 2018 So Far, including a #1 pick that will probably stir the pot just a little bit. Read More »
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One of the breakout hits from the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in January was the coming-of-age comedy Eighth Grade. Marking the directorial debut of YouTube star-turned-professional comedian Bo Burnham, the film throws us right into the middle of the final week of the last year of middle school for Kayla Day (played spectacularly by Elsie Fisher). What unfolds, as you’ll see in the first Eighth Grade trailer, are all the trials and tribulations that come with the hormones, embarrassment and awkwardness that we’ve probably all desperately tried to forget. Read More »
This week, the bulk of the /Film crew is heading to Park City, Utah for the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. This means that the coming days will be full of reviews and reactions from the year’s first major film festival, a place where major movies premiere, gems are discovered, and the basic shape of the entire year in film begins to take shape. If this Sundance is like every other Sundance, we will see some of the best movies of 2018 and discover some incredible new talent over the next week – it’s our job to put them on your radar.
But that begins tomorrow. Today, the team is en route. Today, we’re writing about our 12 most anticipated Sundance movies, the films that we’re making sure we see no matter what. And that means you should know about them, too.
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