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. 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.
Kayla (Elsie Fisher) prepares for her final week of eighth grade.
Before getting into my review, I wanted to highlight some ways that Eighth Grade is an incredible snapshot of the 2010 decade:
- 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.
- 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 .
- 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.
- Language and behavior. Every decade has their own slang and behavior quirks. For instance, during a sex education video, the speaker used the phrase “it’s gonna be lit,” which was even out of date by the time this was released in 2018.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 “the backpack kid” performing the move on Saturday Night Live.
- 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, “those 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 😀 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.
Filming began one week after actress Elsie Fisher graduated eighth grade (via IMDb).
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.