Eighth Grade

Kayla is about to finish the 8th grade and graduate middle school. Aside from having a lot of acne, her life seems pretty ideal. She’s got the soft-spoken, trying-to-be-hip 30-something single father that any boyfriend’s mother would love to meet. No one’s bullying her for lunch money, nobody’s forcing her to turn tricks, she’s not addicted to drugs (that we know of). We’ve all been in Kayla’s shoes before, living the middle-class dream, hanging out at the mall with friends because there’s simply nothing better to do.

Despite its narrow focus, this film should play well to the masses. The story is set in a very specific time and place, present day western society. It is targeted at white, upper-middle class Americans with a liberal leaning. Even if you didn’t grow up in a place like Bellevue, Washington ($104,839 median family income, circa 2012), and didn’t drive a Porsche or Mercedes to high school, and did have two after-school jobs just to help support your family, you’ll still appreciate director Bo Burnhams’s new invention of “credible cinema”.

Credible cinema doesn’t inflate the importance or likelihood of an event. Kayla doesn’t need to get arrested in the last quarter of the film just to trigger an all-out confrontation followed by the inevitable reconciliation of father and daughter (fade to black; roll credits). Timing and music are used to create crescendos and valleys over a relatively uninteresting, sometimes barren, landscape of what is the 8th grade. Write what you know, that is what they say.

Elise Fisher is perfect for this role, and the role is close to perfectly written. I’m not sure what else to say. It’s like that scene from Defending Your Life where Meryl Streep sits around re-watching heroic moments from her character’s life with the attorneys and judge on the last day of her trial–It’s a no brainer how well this film works.

Except the father. What kind of limp-dicked white yankee hangs out and goes “boo-hoo” with his daughter? That’s probably what the other 46% are wondering, as am I to a certain extent. I know he’s barely a supporting actor role, but give the man some dignity. Why can’t he have some drug or alcohol problem, something the daughter is helping him cope with and things are getting better. Or at least let the dad have flashbacks (of whatever, a construction accident is ok). The father figure in this story has no soul, no depth, … think of him as the smiley-faced computer in Moon.

Tune in next time when I try to define “Uncredible” cinema (example?)

WARNING: This film and its trailers are not meant for the mountain people of Nepal.

Venue: Seattle International Film Festival, 2018
Country: USA
Language: English
Genres: Comedy, Drama