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Bo Burnham
Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson
Writing Credits:
Bo Burnham

An introverted teenage girl tries to survive the last week of her disastrous eighth grade year before leaving to start high school.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 94 min.
Price: $24.99
Release Date: 10/9/2018

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Bo Burnham and Actor Elsie Fisher
• “You’re Not Alone” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Music Video
• Previews


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Eighth Grade [Blu-Ray] (2018)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 3, 2019)

Best-known as a comedian who gained fame via YouTube videos, Bo Burnham makes his directorial debut via 2018’s Eighth Grade. Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) approaches the end of eighth grade and has just one week left to go before middle school concludes.

This doesn’t mean parties and frivolity, though, as the introverted Elsie finds it tough to socialize with her peers. Instead, she uses online communication and her own advice videos on YouTube to keep her act together.

I might now be in my early 50s, but that doesn’t mean I don’t remember the angst and awkwardness of middle school. I’d argue seventh grade is worse than eighth grade, but both suck pretty bad, so it’s nitpicking to debate which is less pleasant.

Since I work for a school system, I spend a lot of time around kids, and I was assigned to a middle school for 15 years. The students tended to be too young to seem adult but too old to feel like children, so I got the worst of both worlds: immaturity paired with a snotty attitude.

Grade manages to convey that tone well, especially via Kayla’s interactions with her dad Mark (Josh Hamilton). She constantly treats him like nothing more than an annoyance and wants to seem “adult”, but we know she remains an insecure kid.

A film without a lot of true plot, Grade depends on tone more than anything else, and it reminds us of the sheer awkwardness of being 13 well. Of course, if the movie had focused on a more polished kid like “mean girl” Kennedy (Catherine Oliviere), the result would’ve been different, but Kayla gives us a good avatar for the uncomfortable nature of her age group.

Actually, Kayla may not be the most representative sample, as the movie goes to pains to tell us that she’s unusually shy. She “wins” the award as “Least Talkative”, for God’s sake! That alone makes her an outlier among her peers.

Still, Kayla doesn’t feel all that “odd”, and the movie makes sure she comes across like a fairly normal kid, even if she seems less outgoing than her classmates. We get a good sense of her awkwardness and struggles to cope with the reality of teen life.

As much as I can relate to some aspects of middle school existence all these decades later, one domain that differs relates to technology. When I was in middle school, the Internet didn’t exist and virtually no one had personal computers. (My family got our first Apple at the end of ninth grade.)

Smartphones and online connectivity pervade Grade, so the film reminds us constantly how these factors impact day-to-day life. The movie may exaggerate things slightly, mainly because no one at the middle school seems to try to keep kids off their phones during class. There’s no way schools would be so permissive and let kids consult their devices whenever they want, so the film lacks realism there.

Still, the point comes through that kids live life through their phones, for better or for worse. In Kayla’s case, her You Tube channel acts as a creative outlet, but plenty of negative circumstances arise as well, and the film lets us see these influences in a concise manner.

My biggest problem with Grade relates to its third act. After an hour of a movie without anything particularly substantial, the story suddenly shifts into “very important episode” mode, with big revelations.

Okay, that exaggerates matters somewhat, as Grade doesn’t subject Kayla to any serious jeopardy or misery, but given that the final act takes place over roughly two or three days, she goes through an awful lot of life changes.

I get the impression Burnham wanted a movie without a real beginning or end – beyond the middle school graduation – but he chickened out and felt he needed something more “meaningful”. I understand that impulse, but I don’t think it works, as it requires Kayla to change too much over a brief period of time.

Still, even with that hiccup, Eighth Grade provides a pretty satisfying look at middle school life. It feels honest and engaging, factors that allow it to become a worthwhile endeavor.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus C+

Eighth Grade appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a mainly satisfactory presentation.

Overall sharpness seemed good, though interiors could be a bit iffy. Still, most of the movie showed appropriate accuracy and delineation.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge haloes. Source flaws were absent, as the movie looked consistently clean.

Like most films of this era, Grade gave us a mix of teal and orange. Within those parameters, the hues were positive.

Blacks seemed deep and dark, while shadows showed decent smoothness and clarity, though they could veer a little muddy at times. Despite some minor concerns, this was a largely positive presentation.

As for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Grade, it lacked a ton of ambition. The soundfield focused on music and ambience, so nothing especially memorable occurred, though.

Audio quality was fine. Speech seemed natural and concise, without edginess or other issues.

Music offered good clarity and range, and effects worked well enough. They didn’t have much to do, but they appeared reasonably accurate. All of this ended up as a perfectly satisfactory soundtrack for this sort of movie.

As we shift to extras, we find an audio commentary from writer/director Bo Burnham and actor Elsie Fisher. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at cast and performances, sets and locations, music, wardrobe, and related domains.

Though not without some merits, the commentary seems superficial too much of the time. Burnham and Fisher tend to talk about how amazing and fantastic the movie is, so real insights appear infrequently. Their enthusiasm makes this an energetic listen but it doesn’t deliver a lot of good information.

You’re Not Alone: Life in the Eighth Grade runs 14 minutes, 49 seconds and offers notes from Burnham, Fisher, and actors Catherine Olivere, Josh Hamilton and Jake Ryan.

“Alone” looks at the movie’s use of the Internet and the choice to focus on middle school students, tone and themes, cast, characters and performances, and Burnham’s work as director. The featurette offers a smattering of good details but inevitably leans toward a fair amount of happy talk.

Three Deleted Scenes fill a total of 11 minutes, 55 seconds. The first offers a montage that reminds us of the general awkwardness Kayla endures every day, while the second shows a photo shoot for the “superlative” Kayla “wins”.

At seven minutes, 19 seconds, the third scene goes longest by a lot, and it lets us see more of Kayla’s “play date” with Gabe. None of these prove to be especially interesting.

Next we get a music video that matches score with movie scenes adapted into animation. The style goes super-trippy and it’s vaguely interesting in a creepy way.

The disc opens with ads for Hot Summer Nights, Never Goin’ Back, Hereditary, The Children Act, and First Reformed. No trailer for Grade appears here.

An unusually blunt, warts and all coming of age film, Eighth Grade provides an engaging character piece. With quality acting and an honest feel, the movie turns into a compelling tale. The Blu-ray brings generally good picture and audio with a few supplements. Eighth Grade becomes a solid effort.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.3333 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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