The FilmWatcher Posts

Image courtesy of A24.

**** (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.

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Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

(Note: a version of this article also appeared on PopMatters at this link.)

Frozen River: **
Leave No Trace: ****

Two films made by female directors offer a meaningful look at the different ways one can go about depicting poverty. The first, Frozen River (Courtney Hunt, 2008), tells the story of Ray (Melissa Leo), a mother of two who smuggles illegal immigrants across the US-Canada border in upstate New York. Conversely, Debra Granik’s new film, Leave No Trace (2018), follows Will (Ben Foster) and Tom (Thomasin McKenzie), a homeless father and daughter who illegally live in a public park outside Portland, Oregon.

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