Thursday 16 May 2019

Film: 'Eighth Grade'

On the face of it, this would be the sort of film I'd normally keep a mile away from -  American schoolkids living their socially active lives and spouting sassy bons mots to each other way beyond their years, with situations and repartee one is expected to find simply hilarious - or so I sort of expected. In fact it was hardly any of that, being more a tale of teenage angst with precious few laughs, or none at all which I identified. I only went to see it as I've seen a few reviews which raised it above the level of expectation I've just described. Although it wasn't my 'type' of film, it wasn't really that bad either.

Shot in present day New York State, Elsie Fisher plays insecure 13-year old Kayla in her final year before going onto high school, and who lives alone with her single father (Josh Hamilton). She posts regular YouTube (or was it Facebook?) chatty videos talking of what an active social life she leads, while in reality she's shy, insecure, practically solitary and uncertain about making friends. Ever flicking over her phone screen for something which interests her rather than actually communicating, she brusquely rebuffs her father's regular enquiries about whether she's okay so he has little idea of her inner anguishes, though he picks up that she's somehow troubled. Her awkwardness extends to her class activities, and is particularly marked when she encounters the chance to have sex for the first time.

At first my expectations that I wouldn't like it at all tended to get in the way and I was toying with the thought that I might leave before it was over. But as the film went on I was actually drawn into it and felt increasing sympathy for the girl's situation, knowing how my own school situation had not been a million miles from this girl's isolated situation. 
There is a bit of the usual teenage rivalry badinage between class members both in and out of school, though it didn't detract.

The director (and writer of this film) is 29-year old Bo Burnham, a name I didn't know though I believe he's also done stand-up comedy, this being his first cinema feature. He treats the delicate subject matter with sensitivity without getting over-sentimental, and deserves praise for it.
Another thing in favour of the film is that at 93 mins it doesn't overstay its welcome - only in the final scenes a heart-to-heart between father and daughter felt a bit like trying to wrap things up a bit too neatly.

Considering that the girl's character is something like three generations younger than I am it didn't alienate me as much as I think it might have done. Those of less advanced age than my own could well take to the film still more strongly than I did, notwithstanding the fact that it did hold my interest right through. Not at all bad...............6.

(IMDb.................7.5 / Rott. Toms..........4/5 )


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