Bo Burnham Dives into Bigger Projects

Unlike most coming of age films, “Eighth Grade” is not meant to be nostalgic, according to writer and director Bo Burnham, who describes the film as “emotionally personal” rather than “circumstantially personal.”  

“Eighth Grade” is a chapter of life, specifically Kayla’s last week of middle school in modern day America.  Played by Elsie Fisher, Kayla shows the audience what it would be like to be a middle schooler in today’s climate that includes the importance of social media, school shootings, and auditory and visual trends. The film explores themes including the internet as a societal blanket, anxiety, feminism, pressure, kids growing up faster and the disconnect between thought and execution.

Burnham is known for his unique,musical and at times dramatic stand-up comedy acts. In a Reddit AMA, Burnham advised that people work on bigger projects, and that’s exactly what he did with this film.  Someone with no information about “Eighth Grade” could guess that Burnham had a lot to do with it. This has to do with the film’s details, comedic style and bold, hyperbolic use of music to enhance Kayla’s feelings about a situation. 

This film is so well written that watching it feels like watching a short. There are no excessive scenes or situations. Each character, setting and situation Kayla interacts with is different enough from the last to give the viewer each side of Kayla so far– between happiness and sadness, comfort and discomfort, confusion and confidence.  

Burnham described Fisher as having a “reliable” performance.  It certainly seems so in the outcome. Burnham said all of the awkward “um’s” and “uh’s” were in the script; but Fisher delivered this awkwardness so authentically that it seemed improvised. Fisher’s performance is more than enhanced by that of Josh Hamilton, who plays Kayla’s dad, Mark. Hamilton’s well-executed character adds comedy and heart to the film.   

“Eighth Grade” is an intimate look into the growth and innocence of a budding teenager.  The film screens one more time tomorrow at Alamo Ritz before coming to theaters in early July.