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Film / Eighth Grade

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"Growing up can be a little bit scary and weird."
Kayla Day

Eighth Grade is a 2018 American coming-of-age comedy-drama film notable for being the feature-length debut of musical comedian Bo Burnham as a director and writer. The film premiered on January 19, 2018 as part of that year's Sundance Film Festival before receiving an official theatrical release on July 13 of that year.

It focuses on the life of eighth-grader Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) as she navigates her last week of middle school and struggles to prepare herself for high school. She spends her days surfing the internet on her phone and trying to make friends while posting barely-seen motivational videos to her YouTube channel. As she attempts to branch out and connect with kids her age, her single father attempts to connect with her.

Burnham based the initial idea of the film off of his own struggles with anxiety, and didn't find sufficient funding for two years. He strove to make its depiction of Generation Z as authentic and realistic as possible, and as a result the MPAA gave the film an R rating upon release that elicited controversy as it would prevent actual eighth graders from seeing it. In response, A24 organized completely free unrated screenings across the US.


Eighth Grade contains examples of:

  • Alpha Bitch: Kennedy.
  • Apologises a Lot: Kayla does this in the car to the boy who tried to feel her up. He gets annoyed by it.
  • Bait-and-Switch: As everyone waits in line at graduation, Aiden suddenly breaks from his spot and leaves. Kayla then does the same, initially seeming to be following him, but instead stopping to give Kennedy a "Reason You Suck" Speech, representing her self-development in shedding her childish attraction to a less-than-desirable guy and learning to stand up for herself.
  • Betty and Veronica: A downplayed early adolescent version, with Gabe as Betty and Aiden as Veronica.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Played dramatically, as Kayla consistently ignores and reprimands her father when he attempts to connect with her. Kennedy is more of a straight example.
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  • Bumbling Dad: Kayla's dad's attempts to connect with his daughter mostly fall flat, but they're primarily Played for Laughs, which makes a genuine moment of connection between them towards the end of the movie all the sweeter.
  • Campfire Character Exploration: The movie culminates in a heartwarming scene around a fire in the backyard where Kayla's father delivers his You Are Better Than You Think You Are speech and both hug.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A minor example. We see the SpongeBob figurine from Kayla's time capsule very early in the movie. It isn't until much later that she pulls it in half and reveals to the audience that it's a USB drive, which contains a video message from her younger self.
  • Coming of Age Story: On a small scale, since it only follows Kayla over the course of a few days, but she learns a lot about growing up over this short period.
  • Cool Big Sis: Olivia fills this role for Kayla.
  • Does Not Like Spam: Kayla does not like bananas. She only had one so she could practice giving a blowjob, then tried to cover for it.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Kayla towards Aiden, both in person and when looking at his Instagram posts. In the latter case, she lingers over a post that shows him shirtless and flexing his bicep.
  • Feedback Rule: When the class superlatives are announced, both speakers start with a microphone feedback.
  • Hair Flip: Aiden has a slow motion hair flip at the pool party.
  • Headphones Equal Isolation: Aiden uses this, and Kayla tries it when eating dinner with her father.
  • Homage: Kayla has a signed Playbill for Bring It On.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: Most of the cast is a more realistic take on this trope.
  • Hypocrite: On her channel Kayla is handing out advice about how to Be Yourself and to be more confident, things she can't seem to apply to her own life. She admits to that fact in her last clip.
  • Kids Are Cruel: With a predominantly kid-based cast, most characters are apathetic towards Kayla at best if not actively cruel.
  • Kissing Warm-Up: Kayla practices on her hand when looking at Aiden's Instagram.
  • I Have This Friend: In one of her YouTube videos, Kayla talks about a "friend" who everyone thought was kind of weird, but then she came out of her shell a bit and people got to know her a little better and found out she was really cool. As we cut to Kayla walking up to Kennedy's house for the pool party, it's pretty clear that she's talking about herself, and how she hopes this party will go for her.
  • Let the Past Burn: Kayla decides to burn the shoebox holding her hopes and dreams.
  • Like Is, Like, a Comma: Kayla during her YouTube videos.
  • Logo Joke: In the trailer, the A24 logo is displayed as a clicked-on YouTube video.
  • Missing Mom: Kayla's father mentions that her mom left the family when she was little.
  • Most Writers Are Adults: Averted, and one of the common points of praise for the film. There's a lot of naturalistic dialogue, with Kayla in particular demonstrating a lot of hesitancy and uncertainty. Her YouTube videos are rambling and difficult to follow, and even her climactic "The Reason You Suck" Speech is full of disfluency and repetition, with the resolution coming from the fact that she stands up for herself at all, rather than the eloquence of the speech itself.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Anna Meredith's "Nautilus" playing in the background can make even a pool party seem menacing.
  • No Indoor Voice: Olivia's friend Trevor has real trouble with volume control.
  • No Social Skills: Kayla, her father, and Gabe are merely adorkably awkward, which is a step up from the majority of the characters who range from apathetic to downright mean. Olivia is one of the few characters to come across as socially well-adjusted.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The "truth or dare" scene is a more realistic use of this trope that's nonetheless extremely discomforting to watch, utilizing long pauses between dialogue and no music, creating an underlying tension. Judging by reported audience reactions (including the Sundance crowd twisting in their seats and shouting at the screen), it worked as intended.
  • Parents as People: Kayla's dad consistently tries to connect with her, and mostly fails to do so. Towards the end of the movie, he reveals that he was scared of raising her as a single parent, but became braver as he saw her grow into a good person without having to guide her.
  • Phoneaholic Teenager: Played seriously as the movie emphasizes Kayla's connection to the world through the internet, mostly via her phone.
    • Although she's clearly not the only one - even the cool kids seem to spend more time on their phones than interacting with each other, like in the scene where Kayla tries to talk to Kennedy and her friend who are walking together but both are glued to their phones.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: At graduation, Kayla briefly breaks from her spot in line to give one to Kennedy for always putting her down and writing her off. She does mostly look at the floor, and fumbles through it, but it's a huge moment for her nonetheless.
    Kayla: Hey. I wrote you that letter thanking you for inviting me to your birthday party, and you didn't write back or anything! I didn't even get a DM on, like, Instagram or whatever. And you know what? You're always mean to me, and I'm always nice to you, and being mean isn't nice. And when somebody does something nice to you, you're supposed to be nice back, and you're always mean to me, and I know... I'm a good person because I'm always nice to you, and you're just... And, also, that card game I got you is, like, a really fun version of Go Fish or whatever, and you'd actually know if you played it instead of trying to be cool all the time. It's, like, dumb, or whatever, but you know... It's dumb in a way that's fun to play when it's raining outside, and you'd know that if you stopped trying to be cool all the time!
  • Running Gag:
    • The unseen kid who keeps shouting "LEBRON JAMES!" during lulls in conversation, which is a reference to a Vine.
    • Kayla's dad repeatedly walking in on his daughter at the worst possible times.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shrinking Violet: What Kayla is trying to not be seen as. At the beginning of the film, she's voted the "Most Quiet" member of her class. She isn't happy about it.
  • Signing-Off Catchphrase: Kayla ends all of her YouTube videos with a sign-off of "Gucci!" and an OK hand sign over her face.
  • Smitten Teenage Girl: Kayla, for Aiden.
  • Social Media Is Bad: The film blatantly shows the negative effects of social media on Kayla's psyche.
  • Socially Awkward Hero: Kayla of course, but also her father.
  • Technologically Blind Elders: Downplayed. Kennedy's mother tells Kayla that her daughter will text her on Facebook. Kennedy corrects her that no one is using Facebook anymore.
  • Wakeup Makeup: Early on, we see Kayla putting on make-up in the morning and then posting a selfie online with the caption "Just woke up this way".
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: Aiden wins the "Best Eyes" superlative at school, and a lot of focus is put on his eyes.
  • What Does She See in Him?: Another girl asks Kayla this about her crush on Aiden, given his dull personality, gross habits, and objectifying behavior toward girls. She eventually grows out of it.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Kayla's father attempts to give this speech throughout the movie, only to be drowned out or ignored. He finally gets to deliver a complete one in the end.