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Eighth Grade Blu-ray + Digital Review

Eighth Grade (2018) movie poster Eighth Grade

Theatrical Release: July 13, 2018 / Running Time: 94 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: Bo Burnham

Cast: Elsie Fisher (Kayla Day), Josh Hamilton (Mark Day), Emily Robinson (Olivia), Jake Ryan (Gabe), Daniel Zolghadri (Riley), Fred Hechinger (Trevor), Imani Lewis (Aniyah), Luke Prael (Aiden), Catherine Oliviere (Kennedy), Nora Mullins (Steph), Gerald W. Jones (Tyler), Missy Yager (Mrs. Graves), Shacha Temirov (Mason), Greg Crowe (Mr. McDaniel)

Buy Eighth Grade from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD • DVD • Prime Video

Prior to 2018,
the résumé of Bo Burnham had only a handful of writing and directing credits, almost all of which pertained to his stand-up comedy specials and an MTV series he created that ran for 13 episodes five summers ago. That makes Eighth Grade, both written and directed by Burnham, a filmmaking debut for the ages.

Given his youth, Burnham, just 27 when this was released, has been around a while. He was there for YouTube's infancy, emerging as one of the first breakouts of that website and getting his first Comedy Central special just after turning twenty. That background in homemade videos certainly seems to shape his first feature film in a creative role, but this coming-of-age indie's achievements go well beyond that.

In "Eighth Grade", Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) offers life advice in seldom-viewed online videos.

The protagonist of Eighth Grade is Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher), who at the film's opening is one week from graduating middle school. Kayla is by seemingly every measure an average 14-year-old girl with a below average social life. She records regular videos offering tips to her peers and encouraging subscribers. There is no evidence that many are watching or benefitting from these videos, but they seem to give their creator more joy than anything else in life.

When she's not recording those, Kayla is drowning out her single father Mark (Josh Hamilton) and immersing herself in the social media of classmates she's not really close to.

Going to school is one of the few things that just about everyone does in their life and the universality of that experience, no matter how different it is for all of us, is full of rich storytelling possibilities. By avoiding conventions, like the classic cliques of jocks, bullies, divas, and nerds, Burnham manages to distinguish this film from the many fine school-set comedies and dramas that have come before it. Sure, there are are elements here that will remind you of movies like Mean Girls, Napoleon Dynamite, and Sixteen Candles, but Eighth Grade is not much like any of those.

Kayla (Elsie Fisher) is simultaneously embarrassed by her father (Josh Hamilton) and nervous to attend a party to which she has been reluctantly last minute invited.

For one thing, Burnham's movie is focused on the time right before high school, the four-year process that in theory anyway turns children into adults. The middle school experience has not widely been dramatized and when it has been it is typically in television shows that are far removed from reality like "Hannah Montana" and other broad, garish basic cable sitcoms of that type. Eighth Grade is rated R, which makes it difficult for those currently experiencing that age to see it, but also renders the film more genuine and relatable when they do.

Eighth Grade is very much in the moment. I'm sure that will date the film in a few years when Snapchat and Instagram either fall out of use or dramatically change appearance. But it gives the presentation greater impact and relevance in the here-now.

And it is not as if the movie succeeds by simply capturing a moment or immortalizing the roles that social media currently hold in adolescents' lives. More striking than any of that is just how Bunrham
conveys the emotions and experiences of that fragile early teenage period. The writer-director gives such seemingly minor incidents the grandiosity and weight they hold in the moment to those experiencing them. Music flares and time slows when Kayla steps outside to a pool party, less than comfortable in her bathing suit. She cannot breathe and drops her phone when a high school senior she's shadowing invites her to hang out at the mall.

These are passing moments in your typical mainstream coming-of-age movie, but they're a big deal to someone craving friendship and acceptance, and Eighth Grade excels at presenting them as such. It's tough to understand how Burnham, a childless 27-year-old man, can relate so specifically to the experiences of an insecure 14-year-old girl, but he manages to make the viewer recall the same rushes of excitement and nervousness that they had at that age regardless of their social status.

It is not a stretch to say that Eighth Grade does for the insecurities and uncertainties of pre-high school what great movies like The Graduate, Rushmore, and Lady Bird did for the ages that follow.

Eighth Grade flirted with Lady Bird-esque near-unanimous critical acclaim since it premiered at Sundance in January 2018. A24, which distributed Lady Bird, might have attempted a similar awards season run for this movie, but instead they opened it in theaters in the middle of summer at a time when you find far more bad big movies than small good ones. In reality, Eighth Grade is probably too small to compete for any major awards, even though it certainly ended up among 2018's best films.

The last highly acclaimed A24 movie to feature children in lead roles -- The Florida Project -- ended 2017 on many a critic's best list, but only had a number of Supporting Actor nominations and minor wins to show for it. Do the vulnerable Fisher (a Despicable Me alum) and extremely sympathetic veteran Hamilton deserve consideration for their performances as daughter and father? Absolutely. But as foreseen, the film didn't garner all that much recognition beyond the Independent Spirit Awards, whose Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay honors both seemed like Burnham's for the taking. He ended up winning the latter and, more significantly, the Writers Guild Award for Best Original Screenplay (despite getting snubbed from the Oscars' corresponding category), as well as the Directors Guild Award for Outstanding First-Time Feature, shocking A Star Is Born's Bradley Cooper, who had also been up for Best Director from the same group.

Regardless of the accolades that came and didn't, the comical, comforting, and compassionate Eighth Grade demands to be seen by anyone who is, was, or soon will be fourteen years old. It is now available in a Blu-ray + Digital edition from A24 home video partner Lionsgate.

Eighth Grade Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: October 9, 2018
Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as DVD ($19.98 SRP) and on Prime Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Like most new Blu-rays, this one does an admirable job of reproducing the theatrical experience. The 1.85:1 picture is sharp and nicely defined (except when it's not supposed to be, per Kayla's grainy videos). Similarly, the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio mix has impact and possibly too much, boasting extreme peaks on the prominent Anna Meredith score. If you're listening late at night and have to worry about neighbors, this track might drive you crazy a bit.

Bo Burnham directs Elsie Fisher on the set of "Eighth Grade." Kayla (Elsie Fisher) shares a moment of awkward silence with a fellow class award winner in this deleted scene.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's extras begin with an audio commentary
by writer-director Bo Burnham and star Elsie Fisher. They speak with the passion you expect of young, enthusiastic filmmakers, with both parties displaying clear investment in all facets. If you enjoy the movie as much as I do, this spirited screen-specific discussion is worth a listen, especially if you want to know how Elsie Fisher really feels about bananas and in what scene Burnham stood in for his young lead.

On the all-HD video side, we kick off with "You're Not Alone: Life in the Eighth Grade" (14:49), a solid making-of featurette. Cast and crew interviews complement behind-the-scenes footage and clips.

Next up comes a reel of three deleted scenes (11:55), which offers a scored montage of daily Kayla happenings, a painfully awkward video session for class award winners, and a number of unused bits from Kayla and Gabe's "friend hang", including a joke exchange and a magic display.

A music video for a piece of Anna Meredith's score gives us a trippy rendering of Olivia (Emily Robinson) and Kayla (Elsie Fisher). The Eighth Grade Blu-ray menu sails away to the Internet with Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher).

Finally, a music video (2:33) sets a bit of Anna Meredith's score to trippy renderings of imagery from the film, utilizing a variety of digital art styles and emojis to tastefully psychedelic effect.

Trailers repeats the racy full previews with which the disc opens, advertising Hot Summer Nights, Never Goin' Back, Hereditary, The Children Act, and First Reformed. Eighth Grade's own trailer is unfortunately not included.

The menu plays score over clips with listings relegated to yellow bars.

An insert supplying your unique digital copy code accompanies the plain blue disc inside the slipcovered eco-friendly keepcase.

Kayla (Elsie Fisher) braces herself for the intimidating pool party she is about to join.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Bo Burnham's Eighth Grade is a landmark film, one with far greater value than most of the ones that were recognized with last year's top honors. As such, Lionsgate's fine and substantial Blu-ray edition is easy to recommend.

Buy Eighth Grade from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD / DVD / Prime Video

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Related Reviews:
Lady Bird • Rushmore • The Edge of Seventeen • The Graduate • The Florida Project • The Big Sick • Juno • Boyhood
Now on Disc: First Reformed • mid90s • Juliet, Naked
Josh Hamilton: Dark Skies • Margaret • Manchester by the Sea • Frances Ha

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Reviewed March 18, 2019.



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