EIGHTH GRADE — Review by Susan Granger

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eighth gradeposterIf you still had any doubts about how social media has changed suburban adolescence, check out Bo Burnham’s perceptive, R-rated debut dramedy about angst-riddled Kayla’s last week in middle school. Shy, lonely 13 year-old Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) spends most waking hours on her iPhone. She’s either checking out Instagram/Snapchat or making YouTube videos, offering advice to a non-existent audience. “You have to put yourself out there,” she says, “but where is ‘there’?” Although Kayla claims to be “funny and cool and talkative,” her classmates just voted her “most quiet.” Awkwardly vulnerable and painfully insecure, Kayla yearns to be popular and attract the attention of one particular boy (Luke Prael) in her class. Continue reading…

The highlight of Kayla’s existence comes when she’s paired with exuberant Olivia (Emily Robinson) on the day that middle-schoolers “shadow’ a high-schooler. When Oliva kindly invites her to join pals at the mall that night, Kayla’s content to just sit and watch, listening to their prattle.

But then, as Olivia’s friend (Daniel Zolghadri) drives her home, he challenges her to a game of Truth-or-Dare. That’s when mortified Kayla realizes she’s ‘way out of her sophistication depth.

During this emotionally agonizing period of her life, Kayla’s cared for by her loving single dad, Mark (Josh Hamilton), who does his best to adjust to her inexplicable mood swings.

In a NEW YORKER interview, comedian Bo Burnham notes, “In my adult life, and especially in my stand-up career, I’d felt like the way my anxiety is interfacing with the Internet is very specific and strange. The Internet isn’t helping it. It’s exacerbating it. The Internet means a lot to me, and no one is talking about it correctly.”

Perhaps the 21st century takeaway is: social media is whatever you want it to be. The truth. A lie. Somewhere in-between. But you most control it, instead of allowing it to control you and your self-esteem.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Eighth Grade is an insightful, excruciating 8. Junior High is horrific, even more brutal than you remember.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.