**** (out of 4)
Every year seems to bring the release of yet another film (e.g. 2017’s Lady Bird, 2016’s The Edge of Seventeen, 2015’s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl…) in which a hapless American teen has to deal with things like sex, crushes, self-image, and larger questions regarding identity and purpose. Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade doesn’t exactly break this mold. Its protagonist, an iPhone-toting, Instagram-obsessed eighth grader named Kayla (Elsie Fisher), is the very epitome of today’s technophilic generation of American adolescents (a.k.a. “Generation Z.”). Plotwise, moreover, the film is all about Kayla’s attempts to grapple with the aforementioned problems during her final week in middle school.
Given the familiarity of its underlying narrative elements, Eighth Grade could easily have been just another run-of-the-mill “teen movie.” In reality, however, there are three reasons why it proves more memorable and meaningful than many of its genre predecessors.