Eighth Grade is a coming of age story, about awkward middle-school student Kayla, who makes a last ditch effort to fit in before moving on to high-school. Actress Elsie Fisher was chosen to play Kayla, partly because of her chubby look and acne covered face, giving her a natural look for the part of a socially awkward middle-school girl.
Kayla herself was very well developed as a character. She was relatable teen, suffering from social anxiety. At some points I felt she was written a little too real. Her flaws were shown quite a bit, mainly her naivety and childish impatience with her father, and while they did make her relatable, at times they made her difficult to sympathize with. There was also the opening scene where she is making a YouTube video, one in a series of YouTube videos she makes giving people (really herself) life advice. While the advice itself is terrible and cliche (just be yourself and everything will work out for you), what really got to me was the amount of times she used the word “like”, which nearly made it unwatchable for me. I don’t see all this as a problem, however. Her relatability made up for the times she failed to be sympathetic. As for her YouTube videos, though they showed how naive she was, they also set the movie up for a final video she makes at the end. She gives her future self good advice and shows how she has grown as a character.
The other characters in the film (with the acception of the father) played small, supporting roles. They were not developed and were used as little as possible. This would have been fine, as it left more room to develop Kayla. However, I felt that many of the storylines the characters were part of were dropped prematurely. One example is the guy that Kayla has crush on. She discovers he’s a jerk who only wants to girls to have sex with, but tries to be with him anyway. In the last interaction between them, Kayla tells him that she has sexy photos that she’s going to show her boyfriend when she gets one. We never see her realize it was a mistake to try to be with him, or him trying to do anything after receiving this information. I felt like this storyline, along with a few others, needed a stronger ending.
The biggest mistake I felt Eighth Grade made was to be rated R. Being a story about an awkward middle-schooler with very relatable problems for that age group, I felt that the movie lost what could have been its main audience, because of its rating. I did find it very well done movie with a strong lead character though, and definitely recommend it.