Ultimate Decades 2021 Blogathon Kick-Off: Bridesmaids (2011) Review

Hello, friends!

I’m excited to be the first to welcome you to the sixth annual Ultimate Decades Blogathon, hosted by Kim from Tranquil Dreams and myself! In the past, the Ultimate Decades Blogathon focused on a specific decade, from the 1970s all the way to the 2010s. Rather than revisit those decades again, the format this year is slightly different. Instead of spotlighting a single decade, the the Ultimate Decades Blogathon is now focusing on films released in years that end in the same digit as the current year. Since this year is 2021, all the films in this blogathon were released in years that end in 1. Exciting, right? I think the participants this year have really outdone themselves and chosen some great films from across the decades. Now, to kick things off, I will share my review of a film that came out just last decade. Without further ado, here is my review of the 2011 Paul Feig comedy Bridesmaids.


Bridesmaids movie posterSynopsis
Jillian (Maya Rudolph) asked her best friend, Annie (Kristen Wiig), to be the Maid of Honor in her wedding. Annie finds competition in Helen (Rose Byrne) for Jillian’s attention.

Review
When a film features an all female ensemble, you would be forgiven if you expect a sappy love story about the women trying to catch themselves a man. If you went into Bridesmaids with that expectation, you would be wrong. Bridesmaids takes inspiration from films like The Hangover and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, showcasing that women can at time be just as crude as men. However, Bridesmaids never tries to be like similar films featuring ensembles of male buddies and sets out to show that female relationships do not revolve around β€œtrying to find the one” as many movies before would have you believe.

The script, written by Annie Mumolo and star Kristen Wiig, is what sets Bridesmaids apart from other female ensemble movies at the time. While vulgar and crude, which is not uncommon in comedy films (especially in the late 2000s/early 2010s), Mumolo and Wiig still manage to make it feel unique. Since this is a movie about women written by women, the relationships between the female cast feel like actual relationships. There’s a true feeling of genuineness to the characters and their interactions between each other. Like many comedies, the script takes something simple, like being a bridesmaid, and puts it under a magnifying glass, exaggerating the experience yet still keeping it relatable. While there were female-led comedy ensemble movies before Bridesmaids, they saw varied success. This film feels like it marked a turning point, proving that the comedies written by and starring women can be just as funny and entertaining as those written by and starring men.

Along with the script, the cast is absolutely stellar. Wiig seems to play off everyone around her. Her scenes with Rudolph feel like the pair have been friends since childhood. Wiig and Rose Byrne, who plays her rival for Lily’s attention, are an absolute hoot when they are together. Wendi McLendon-Covey plays the worn-down mom to perfection. The Office alum Ellie Kemper channels her inner Erin and is adorably awkward. I am a huge fan of the British television show The IT Crowd, so seeing Chris O’Dowd was a special treat. However, the stand-out performance to me was Melissa McCarthy. In one of her first feature film roles, she knocks it out of the park. Every scene of hers is laugh-out-loud funny and her comedic timing is impeccable. It’s not hard to see why her film career took off after starring in this movie. Even though there are many characters, Bridesmaids manages to balance them, providing enough screen time for the supporting characters to feel relevant but still enable the leads to stand out.

I thought Bridesmaids was GREAT πŸ˜€ Written by Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig and directed by Paul Fieg, it opened up the door for modern-day female-led comedies, showing that female-led comedies can be raunchy too and not just reserved for sappy love stories. What’s more, the characters are extremely likable and the entire cast is outstanding. At 10 years old, Bridesmaids has aged like a fine wine, and keeps getting better with every viewing.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Paul Feig – Director
Kristen Wiig – Writer
Annie Mumolo – Writer
Michael Andrews – Writer

Kristen Wiig – Annie
Maya Rudolph – Lillian
Melissa McCarthy – Megan
Rose Byrne – Helen
Wendi McLendon-Covey – Rita
Ellie Kemper – Becca
Chris O’Dowd – Rhodes
Rebel Wilson – Brynn
Matt Lucas – Gil
JIll Clayburgh – Annie’s Mom
Jon Hamm – Ted
Tim Heidecker – Dougie


Tomorrow, my co-host Kim will post her entry on her site in part two of the Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2021 kick-off.

As the blogathon progresses, you can check out this compilation page on Kim’s site to view all of the entries.

Until next time, cheers!

Soul Review

Soul movie posterSynopsis
Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is a middle school band teacher and an aspiring musician looking for his big break. When he gets the opportunity he has been waiting for, he has an accident and finds his soul heading towards the Great Beyond. Not ready to move on, he escapes to the Great Before, where he meets the young soul 22 (Tina Fey) and together they try to return Joe’s soul to his body.

Review
Over the years, Pixar has told a variety of stories that have all been unique in their own way. Keeping with that trend, Soul is unlike any film Pixar has made before; the studio continues to find new and original stories to tell. This movie manages to stand out among Pixar’s other films as a masterful study of one’s perception of their purpose in life. It might not be the most kid-accessible plot but it is approached in a way that is meaningful to all ages.

Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is a musician who never quite got his big break. In between going to various auditions, Joe became a middle school band teacher. He enjoys being a teacher but nonetheless feels unfulfilled and still chases his aspirations of becoming a musician. When a former student, Curley (Questlove), calls Joe and invites him to audition for his quartet, Joe feels could finally be the break he has been looking for. At the audition, Joe gets lost in the music and makes a good impression on the quartets leader, Dorothea (Angela Bassett), who asks him to return later that night for the show.

The strength of these first few scenes is they expertly set up several characters and threads that will be important throughout the rest of the film. Just before going to the audition, we see the dynamic between Joe and his mother, Libba (Phylicia Rashad), who wants her son to find a stable job and not a career with the uncertainty that comes with being a full-time musician. It is clear that they have a strained relationship. It is also clear that Joe has respect for his mother and wants to make her happy but at the same time, wants to be allowed to follow his dreams and do what makes him happy. We see Joe’s passion for music as well when he zones out while playing the piano during his audition. His passion is seen, not just heard. We, as the audience, are pulled into his love of music and can feel how much Joe enjoys playing piano; we understand how important this opportunity is to Joe.

Excited to be offered the job he has been waiting for, Joe hurries home but in his rush, he becomes distracted and falls into an open manhole. He wakes up as a soul going towards a giant light in the Great Beyond. Not ready to pass on before getting his big break, he tries to escape from the Great Beyond and finds himself in the Great Before, the place where young souls reside before going to Earth. As Joe travels between the Great Beyond and the Great Before, we get the first glimpse at how varied the animation of this film his. The sequence of Joe falling was very Kubrick-esque to me, being both entrancing and intriguing at the same time. Once in the Great Before, the style of animation is much more fluid and abstract that the realism seen in the New York City sequences. It’s very similar to Inside Out, where there are no clear edges and the environment is very flamboyant and runs together. The appearance of Terry and the multiple Jerry’s is probably the most unique character design in all of Pixar, which is saying something.

In the Great Before, Joe meets Counselor Jerry (Alice Braga), who informs him that souls in the Great Before can reach Earth using the Earth portal. However, every time he goes through the portal, Joe is returned to the Great Before. Thinking Joe is a lost soul mentor, Terry takes him to the other mentors, who assist young souls in finding their β€œspark” to complete their personalities, displayed as a badge on the soul, before being allowed to Earth. Seeing a completed Earth Pass as his ticket through the portal back to Earth, he impersonates another soul mentor. In the mentoring program, he meets soul 22 (Tina Fey), a soul who refuses to go to Earth. The pair agree to complete 22’s Earth Pass so Joe can use it to return to Earth and 22 can stay in the Great Before forever.

Unable to find 22’s spark in the Hall of Everything, Joe and 22 go see Moonwind (Graham Norton) and the Mystics without Borders, a group who help β€œthe lost souls of Earth find their way.” When the mystics locate Joe’s body on Earth, Joe rushes to get back. In his haste, Joe accidentally brings 22 with him. When Joe wakes up, he realizes that he is in the body of a therapy cat and 22 is inside his body. Together, 22 and Joe set out to find Moonwind on Earth to help them return to their proper selves.

What follows is a extraordinarily crafted story of friendship and passion. Joe and 22’s journey throughout the course of the film sees the two discovering that there is more to life than either expected. The themes are geared more towards an older audience who might have more appreciation for the movie’s message, but I feel they are also laid out in a way that a younger viewer can understand as well. It might not be as exciting or adventurous as some of Pixar’s other films, but the characters and their journeys make the experience well worth your while.

I mentioned it previously but I can’t review an animated film and not talk about the animation. New York City is a city full of movement and excitement. Soul captures that with such realism that if the characters themselves were not caricatures, it would be hard to tell this is animation. The opening scenes provide a look at the beautiful animation to come in the film but when Joe and 22 set off in New York City together is when the animation of the bustling city becomes truly breathtaking. The sights, the sounds, the colors, the energy, everything is authentic and gorgeously rendered. Pixar continues pushing the boundaries of what is possible in animation.

I thought Soul was GREAT πŸ˜€ The story provides a fantastic and emotional study of inspiration and purpose. As we get older, we forget that there is beauty in life around us. Soul serves as a reminder that no matter how mundane things become, never lose sight of what makes life truly beautiful and worthwhile.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Pete Doctor – Director / Writer
Kemp Powers – Co-Director / Writer
Mike Jones – Writer
Jonathan Batiste – Jazz Compositions and Arrangements
Trent Reznor – Composer
Atticus Ross – Composer

Jamie Foxx – Joe (voice)
Tina Fey – 22 (voice)
Graham Norton – Moonwind (voice)
Rachel House – Terry (voice)
Alice Braga – Counselor Jerry A (voice)
Richard Ayoade – Counselor Jerry B (voice)
Phylicia Rashad – Libba (voice)
Questlove – Curley (voice)
Angela Bassett – Dorothea (voice)
Cora Champommier – Connie (voice)
Donnell Rawlings – Dez (voice)
Margo Hall – Melba (voice)
Rhodessa Jones – Lulu (voice)
Daveed Diggs – Paul (voice)

National Lampoon’s Vacation Review

National Lampoon's Vacation movie posterSynopsis
Desperate to spend time with his family, Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) takes his wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), son Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) and daughter Audrey (Dana Barron) and a cross country road trip to the theme park Walley World.

Review
The 80s was a great time for actor Chevy Chase and writer John Hughes. Given the long and storied careers these two would end up with, then of course it is no surprise that when these two collided almost 40 years ago, magic happened. Hughes based the script for National Lampoon’s Vacation on the short story “Vacation ’58” he wrote for an issue of the National Lampoon magazine. Chase, combined with an incredible cast around him and director Harold Ramis behind the camera, creates one of the most memorable films of the decade.

The first thing that makes this movie so entertaining are the actors; every one of the Griswolds is perfectly cast. Chevy Chase as the head of the family, Clark Griswold, never fails to elicit laughs. His deadpan delivery and slapstick comedy are timed perfectly. Beverly D’Angelo as Ellen, the Griswold matriarch, is fantastic opposite Chase; she plays off his comedy well and shines just as bright. The Griswold children, Anthony Michael Hall as the older sibling Rusty and Dana Barron as Audrey, the younger sibling, are just kind of there to go along for the ride. Hall seems to have the more stand-out moments than Barron but they both gel well with Chase and D’Angelo.

Chase, D’Angelo, and the rest of the cast wouldn’t stand out if it wasn’t for the excellent script they had to play with. This film is filled to the brim with wit and humor. I don’t think there was one scene that did not make me laugh, whether it was Clark’s antics or obliviousness, Ellen trying to keep her children and husband in line, or the Griswold children just going along with everything as best they can, there are jokes and gags galore. It gets even better when Randy Quaid as Cousin Eddie shows up, albeit too briefly. Hughes’ script is also very tight. Every scene has a purpose or sets up something that pays off down the line. It also keeps moving; with the amount of jokes and gags in each scene, the film never lingers on any one of them, constantly moving on to the next. This is what makes Chase such a wonderful fit because he expertly navigates from one gag to the next.

But what I really enjoy about this film is how it takes something simple, such as a family vacation, and turns it into a caricature. Something simple like asking for directions or visiting a cousin’s house is exaggerated and portrayed in a ridiculously over-the-top manner. Countless times I found myself laughing and saying to myself β€œI can relate to that!” The best movies find something for you to connect to, building an emotional bond between you and the film. Vacation finds those emotions and holds on tight, making sure you remember the film long after you’ve finished watching.

I thought National Lampoon’s Vacation was GREAT πŸ˜€ Really, what’s not to love in this film? Director Harold Ramis, aka Dr. Egon Spengler, brings writer John Hughes’ script to life with energy and nuance, highlighting the comedic talents of Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo. Randy Quaid is a hoot as Cousin Eddie, who has only a small role in this film but thankfully plays a bigger part later in the franchise. Vacation hits all the right emotional cords with its melodramatic take on the family road trip, drawing you in with its fun and relatable characters and keeping you engaged with Hughes’ trademark humor and heart.

Favorite Quote
Lasky: Has your father ever killed anyone before?
Rusty: Oh, just a dog. Oh, and my Aunt Edna.
Clark: Hey! You can’t prove that, Rusty.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Harold Ramis – Director
John Hughes – Writer
Ralph Burns – Composer

Chevy Chase – Clark Griswold
Beverly D’Angelo – Ellen Griswold
Anthony Michael Hall – Rusty Griswold
Dana Barron – Audrey Griswold
Imogene Coca – Aunt Edna
Randy Quaid – Cousin Eddie
Miriam Flynn – Cousin Catherine
John Navin – Cousin Dale
Jane Krakowski – Cousin Vicki
Christie Brinkley – The Girl in the Ferrari
John Candy – Lasky, Guard at Walleyworld
Eddie Bracken – Roy Walley

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: Christmas in July Blogathon 2020

Merry Christmas in July!

The blogathon has had some fantastic guests over the past few days but it is my turn at last. I will be closing out the Christmas in July Blogathon 2020 with the review of the last film I have yet to review on my Fave Five Christmas Movies: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Without further ado, let’s get to it!


National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation movie posterSynopsis
Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) invites his extended family to his home for Christmas.

Review
If you ask someone to name some of their favorite Christmas films, chances are they will have National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on that list and it’s not hard to see why. Penned by John Hughes, who also wrote the first two Vacation films, Christmas Vacation has much of the emotion and humor you would expect from the legendary writer. Filled with as many laughs to match the big heart at the center, Christmas Vacation continues to be a holiday season much-watch for me.

One of the aspects of this movie that always brings me back is how it plays on the dysfunction of the family. While all of the previous films in the series play on this too, Christmas Vacation takes it up a notch. The Griswold household is packed full with both sides of the family so there are plenty of shenanigans abound. With so many characters, every personality imaginable is present, which create some wild interactions. However, this high volume of characters also proves to be a detriment as most of the characters introduced are relegated to the background. Other than names and being told the fact that the two sides don’t get along, little information is given about them and they aren’t developed very much either.

Griswold family patriarch Clark (Chevy Chase) continues to be the lovable goofball we’ve come to expect over the course of the franchise. Hugh’s script once again highlights Chase’s sense of humor and deadpan delivery perfectly. Just as well, Beverly D’Angelo as Ellen Griswold continues to be a magnificent counterpart to Chase. The Griswold kids, Rusty and Audrey, are once again portrayed by a new set of actors in John Galecki and Juliette Lewis respectively. This duo is the weakest of the actors to play the Griswold kids in the franchise so far. Neither have many stand out moments and they end up getting lost in the sea of extra characters who aren’t Clark, Ellen, or cousin Eddie.

Speaking of cousin Eddie, I’m so glad Randy Quaid is back! His presence was sorely missed in European Vacation. He has some of the best moments of the movie, especially towards the end of it. Although he might be more of an oddball than Clark, like Clark, his heart is in the right spot, making him a lovable character.

While I do enjoy the core group of characters, what brings me back to Christmas Vacation time and time again is the film’s heart and honest, albeit exaggerated, look at family holiday gatherings. How many times have you been with your family and everybody was bickering or had that one family member who did everything they could to make everything perfect? Hughes’ script fantastically blends all of these elements together, weaving in so much heart and Christmas spirit that you can’t help but enjoy it.

I thought National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation was GREAT πŸ˜€ As a Vacation movie, it has all the comedy and emotional heart you have come to expect from the franchise. But as a Christmas movie is where this film is strongest. Riffing on the craziness and unpredictable nature of family gatherings through Clark Griswolds signature antics, Christmas Vacation remains one of the funniest Christmas movies today.

Favorite Scene

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Jermiah Chechik – Director
John Hughes – Writer
Angelo Badalamenti – Composer

Chevy Chase – Clark Griswold
Beverly D’Angelo – Ellen Griswold
Juliette Lewis – Audrey Griswold
John Galecki – Rusty Griswold
John Randolph – Clark, Sr.
Diane Ladd – Nora
EG Marshall – Art
Doris Roberts – Francis
Randy Quaid – Cousin Eddie Johnson
Miriam Flynn – Cousin Catherine Johnson
Cody Burger – Rocky
Ellen Latzen – Ruby Sue
William Hickey – Lewis
Mae Questel – Bethany
Sam McMurray – Bill
Nicholas Guest – Todd Chester
Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Margo Chester
Brian Doyle Murphy – Frank Shirley
Natalija Nogulich – Mrs. Shirley


You might not know the name of my guest to the holiday party but you might recognize her. My guest is Milana Vayntrub, aka Lily the AT&T girl.

Milana Vayntrub

Milana has been on my guest shortlist for a while now but never quite made the cut. Appropriate that she is at the top of my list this year, given that she has recently returned to the role of Lily. Outside of the AT&T commercials, she has done some smaller roles and is currently the voice of Squirrel Girl in the animated television show New Warriors. Milana has also done some wonderful humanitarian work as well. Truly the complete package.

And that was the final entry for the seventh annual Christmas in July Blogathon! The wrap up post will be posted tomorrow, where you can find a list of all the entries from this year, as well as the entire guest list to our holiday party. See you there!

Until next time, cheers!

Inception Review

This review was originally posted as part of Table 9 Mutant‘s IMDb Top 250 project then updated and reposted for the Ultimate 2010s Blogathon, hosted by Tranquil Dreams and me.

Inception movie posterSynopsis
Dream extractors Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and their team are hired by Japanese businessman Saito (Ken Watanabe) to perform inception, or plant an idea in someone’s mind, on Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), son of Saito’s dying competitor.

Review
Christopher Nolan is a writer and director who is known for films that are bold, that go big, and that are completely original. One of his boldest and biggest films came between the latter two films in his influential The Dark Knight trilogy. Inception has all of Nolan’s trademark elements and, most importantly, the cast to make it work. And it works. It works in a spectacular and unforgettable fashion.

Sometimes movies try to explain their world before getting into the story, often using an overbearing amount of exposition. But Inception doesn’t do that. Rather than use the beginning to set up the technology or concept to enter one’s subconscious, it is used to introduce the notion of dreams within dreams, which becomes an important aspect of the story later on, and also simply give an idea of what it the technology does. The movie accepts that entering dream space is already an established technology so it can start with a bang. However, later in the film we do get the exposition needed to explain such a high concept technology. This information is given to us through Ariadne (Ellen Page), who acts as the bridge between the movie and the audience. But again, it is done in a way that is neither pandering nor dull, somehow making exposition exciting and entertaining.

Although there is a large ensemble, almost everyone gets their fair share of screen time. Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are the main focus but they handle the attention well and give amazing performances. They play off each other humorously and you can feel that their characters are close friends. I haven’t seen many of Cillian Murphy’s films but I’m impressed with his performance here, playing well opposite, and later along side, DiCaprio. Ellen Page is the newcomer to the team and acts a great surrogate for the audience. She offers an innocence and a bit of naivete to the group. However, I would have to say my favorite performances is Tom Hardy as Eames. He brings a charisma that fits his character perfectly.

Cobb has become one of my favorite characters in cinema. He is very complex and it’s easy to forget that he is a thief. He is an antihero but is one because of the circumstances and wants nothing more than to return to his family. Most antiheroes say they have good intentions and only become so out of necessity but secretly enjoy being a thief/killer/whatever kind of antihero they are. Cobb, on the other hand, is truly not a bad person and is only leveraging his skills in a way he believes will allow him to return to his family the quickest, even though it is not a way he would prefer.

I have mentioned many times in other reviews how important the score can be to a movie. Like most other aspects of Inception, the sound work and music beautifully complements what is happening on screen. The movie can get loud to accentuate the action going on but it also gets very quite, making these moments more intimate. Hans Zimmer is my second favorite composer (behind the wonderful John Williams) and for a good example of why he is amazing just look at this movie. His score is memorable and gives a certain gravitas to the events unfolding on screen.

There are some amazing visuals, too. Working inside a dream allows the action to be limited only by the imagination. One of the coolest is an early scene when Ariadne is learning about molding dreams. She is walking around Paris and makes the city fold on itself, among bending the streets and architecture in other ways. There is also a fight scene in zero gravity in a hotel hallway. And these are just a few! On top of that, many of the effects are done practically rather than with computer animation. Even though this film takes place in the dreamscape, it adds a bit of realism in a world that is anything but real. The effects department truly outdid themselves.

I thought Inception was GREAT πŸ˜€ Like most of Christopher Nolan’s films, it features a grand and unique concept. Even though the concept is big, it is never dumbed-down or spoon-fed to the audience. The film assumes that they can figure things out for themselves and moves on accordingly, offering marvelous and extraordinary action pieces and character moments. Each character is complex yet relatable and all the actors and actresses play well off each other. Nolan has proven time and again his place as one of the biggest and best storytellers in Hollywood today, and Inception just might be his crown jewel. So far.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Christopher Nolan – Director / Writer
Hans Zimmer – Composer

Leonardo DiCaprio – Cobb
Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Arthur
Ellen Page – Ariadne
Tom Hardy – Eames
Ken Watanabe – Saito
Dileep Rao – Yusuf
Cillian Murphy – Robert Fischer
Marion Cotillard – Mal
Tom Berenger – Browning
Pete Postlethwaite – Maurice Fischer
Michael Caine – Miles
Lukas Haas – Nash

Ultimate 2010s Blogathon Kick-Off: Eighth Grade (2018) Review

Hello, friends!

Welcome to part 2 of the fifth Ultimate Decades Blogathon! Since it is the start of the new decade, this year the blogathon is looking back at the one that just wrapped up: the 2010s. My co-host Kim from Tranquil Dreams shared her kick-off post and her review of The Wandering Earth and discusses the impact streaming services like Netflix have had on international and indie films.Β  Head over there an check that out if you haven’t already. Now it is time for my kick-off post and review of the coming-of-age film Eighth Grade.


Eighth Grade movie poster

Synopsis
Kayla (Elsie Fisher) prepares for her final week of eighth grade.

Review
Before getting into my review, I wanted to highlight some ways that Eighth Grade is an incredible snapshot of the 2010 decade:

  1. Instagram and Snapchat. Maybe these app will still be very popular in the coming decade, but as of early 2020, seeing the characters in this film use Instagram so much is such a 2010s thing. Same with Snapchat, a popular messaging app. Instagram was released in 2010 and Snapchat in 2011, so having them be such a prominent part of the movie instantly places the movie in the 2010 decade.
  2. Every kid has a smart phone. I remember when I received my first cell phone. In high school. Back when all they did was make calls and play the game Snake. In this film, every kid has a cell phone. And not just any cell phone, a smart phone .
  3. BuzzFeed quizzes. How many BuzzFeed quizzes have you seen and/or taken about what kind of pizza topping are you or what character from a specific movie or TV show? The site didn’t begin offering these quizzes until the early- to mid-2010s.
  4. Language and behavior. Every decade has their own slang and behavior quirks. For instance, during a sex education video, the speaker used the phrase β€œit’s gonna be lit,” which was even out of date by the time this was released in 2018. At one point the principal dabbed, a move made popular by professional football player Cam Newton in 2015. Several teens can be seen doing the floss, a dance move popular among children and teens, which has been seen as early as 2010 but gained popularity in 2017 thanks to β€œthe backpack kid” performing the move on Saturday Night Live.
  5. Strong message about self-image. Numerous coming-of-age films over the decades have dealt with being yourself and being confident in who you are. However, I feel it wasn’t until the 2010s that this genre really dealt with self-love and being positive with your self-image, especially with young women. It’s great to see such an important topic getting the attention it deserves and Eighth Grade is the best of them.

Now bear in mind, some of these items might continue to be popular in the 2020s. So if you’re reading this in the future and are thinking to yourself, β€œthose things are still around,” the reasons I listed above are through the lens of looking at this film in February of 2020, pretty much immediately after the closing of the 2010s. If I’ve learned anything from doing these decade retrospectives for the Ultimate Decades Blogathons, it’s that no two decades are alike and each have their own defining traits.

Every generation has their coming-of-age films. This generation is lucky enough to have Eighth Grade, which honestly probably has the rest of ours beat. Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of great coming-of-age films over the years but none have felt as authentic or genuine as Eight Grade. The young Elsie Fisher is the heart and soul of this movie. Under director Bo Burnham’s hand, Fisher gives a performance unexpected from someone of her age. She is awkward, she is funny, and her performance is both unflinchingly pure and awe-inspiring hopeful. I can’t compliment her enough for her acting in this film.

Outside of Fisher, the rest of the cast is there to be either a foil or support for Kayla, Fisher’s character. Every interaction Kayla has with the other characters are there to grow her in some way. Mark, Kayla’s father played by Josh Hamilton, acts as Kayla’s biggest supporter, even if she might not appreciate it at the time. Together, Hamilton and Fisher have one of the most emotionally charged scenes towards the end of the film. Kayla has two antagonists, for a lack of a better term, in Kennedy and Steph, played by Catherine Oliviere and Nora Mullins respectively. They are there to challenge her self-confidence and her image. Later on in the movie, Kayla befriends several high schoolers who become an example of the type of person she could be in just a few years. It is during one scene with one of these high schoolers that was one of the most gut-wrenching and impactful of the entire film for me. Again, it only proved what a capable actress Fisher is. Lastly, there are a couple of Kayla’s crushes thrown in for good measure. By the end of the film Kayla has grown tremendously, even for a film that takes place within the span of a week.

Score can play a big part in creating the emotion. In Eighth Grade, the score behaves rather uniquely. When it’s just Kayla or Kayla is moving or doing something, there is music accompanying it. However, whenever she begins conversing with someone, the score stops. This is a powerful technique because it puts the audience’s full attention on the characters. It is up to the characters alone to carry the movie. With a lesser lead, this could have failed dramatically. Instead, the fantastic performances from Fisher and the rest of the cast are only highlighted, especially during the more intimate moments.

I thought Eighth Grade was GREAT πŸ˜€ Bo Burnham’s script and direction is one of the purest explorations of being a teenager I have ever seen in cinema. Elsie Fisher carries the film with her sincere portrayal of Kayla. My only minor gripe is that a couple of the early storylines are dropped part way through as more come up. However, since this this story takes place within a couple of days and not everything in life gets closure quickly, it’s a small annoyance I can overlook. Coming-of-age movies can feel like a dime a dozen but one like Eighth Grade only comes about once a generation and is not worth missing.

Trivia
Filming began one week after actress Elsie Fisher graduated eighth grade (via IMDb).

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Bo Burnham – Director / Writer
Anna Meredith – Composer

Elsie Fisher – Kayla Day
Josh Hamilton – Mark Day
Emily Robinson – Olivia
Jake Ryan – Gabe
Daniel Zolghardri – Riley
Fred Hechinger – Trevor
Imani Lewis – Aniyah
Luke Prael – Aiden
Catherine Oliviere – Kennedy
Nora Mullins – Steph
Missy Yagger – Mrs. Graves


Stop by our blogs daily to see who shows up next and what they consider to be the ultimate 2010s film. Use the tag #Ultimate2010s to share your comments or entries for the blogathon on twitter. If you miss any of the entries, Kim is keeping an aggregated list on her site, which you can check out here.