hopscotchee: daniel zolghadri score: 95 rating: R time: 94 minutes
holy, flippin' flyin' saucers!! ridiculously mind-blowing-ly exceptional and mistakenly not an academy award winner, eighth grade is a stunning ninety-minute masterpiece that appropriately depicts one teenage girl’s struggle to find her identity and self-confidence in the ever cringing, awkward atmosphere of middle school through her transition from eighth grade to high school.
applauding right from the start, the movie opens with (spoiler) the main character, kayla, expressing her personal difficulties about being regarded as ‘quiet’ meanwhile she stumbles on her words, trying to make her point that it’s hard to be yourself, but you just have to be you. although straight away, actress, elsie fisher captures you immediately with her (unfortunately accurate) cringy portrayal of an anxious tween, the credit for this scene goes to writer, bo burnham for starting out the film this way. as a writer, it’s really insightful to set the tone and mood of the film immediately; however, although this is a powerful writing start, bo burnham, also being the director of the film, flexes his never ending talents as well, especially at the pool party scene. by directing and orchestrating the beginning of this scene as (spoiler) a single shot, it flourishes kayla’s ‘fish out of water’ feelings that she has at the party and her whole middle school experience in general. equally, by keeping the audience in this one shot, not being able to cut away and escape the major uncomfortableness, this effectively lets the viewer understand kayla’s perspective. and being that technology and social media are the main central points of this movie, as a result to them becoming engrained in our society, it can be harder for filmmakers to allow their audience to understand the depth to a character due to the reduction of personal interaction, keeping them stuck in their heads and on their phones. to this point, this just demonstrates bo burnham's directorial dedication to seamlessly dodge this, explicitly with the pool party scene, by keeping it one long shot at the beginning and allowing the audience to feel kayla’s constant awkwardness and self-consciousness throughout the entire length of the scene.
just as much, the editing really played to one of the movie's most considerable highlights. tying back to the struggle of understanding one another from limitations put in place from the increased obsession of technology, especially with the younger generation, the decision to inter-splice kayla’s videos throughout the film to serve as voice overs not only engaged the audience further by speeding up the pace of the plot, but also let the audience inside to kayla's thoughts and feelings, getting to relate to her with a purpose, not just incorporating cliché voice overs that are seen common in teen movies. additionally, this only amplified the film's level of sophistication even though told through a kid’s perspective which only made it a more respectable body of work.
another aspect that deservedly needs to be analyzed is the film's ability to express, not just kayla’s insecurities, but also her moments of overwhelming emotions, which were portrayed excellently thanks to the sound mixing and cinematography. by including abrupt and bold audio tracks and music, this drew contrasts between the intensity of kayla's feelings and her reality. for example when the viewer was (spoiler) introduced to aidan, kayla's middle school crush, the quiet and inward scene of kayla shifted its attention to him with the most opposing extremity, evidently heard with the loud, fierce audio transition. and through the overstimulating vibrancy, seen with colorful lights in her bedroom and bright blue phone screen, this let the audience know kayla’s emotions consistently throughout the film without always having to explain it through dialogue which added to the level of realism the movie packed in as a whole.
hitting a lot of points, we could rave on and on about eighth grade, but truly and sincerely, this film's greatest strength was its ability to communicate. whether you were aware of it or not, the little details - both on and off screen - brilliantly and cohesively came together, empathically sharing the film's message of the awkwardness of growing up to the fullest effect.
-- thanks, daniel xo