Monday, May 14, 2018

Independent Film Festival Boston 2018.01: Eighth Grade

Aw, yeah, one of the best weeks of the Boston movie year kicking off at the Somerville Theatre.

A bit of a drizzly night, but I wound up timing things pretty well, having just enough time between picking up my badge and them letting people into the theater to have myself a peanut butter, bacon, and banana "King" burger across the street without standing around getting rained on. Always a good sign.

Inside, there were a ton of seats roped off for A24, sponsors, and who knows what, pretty much the whole center of the theater, maybe the most I've ever seen at this fest. I guess writer/director Bo Burnham is local, which might explain some of that.

Meredith Goldstein of the Boston Globe (left) led the Q&A with Burnham and star Elsie Fisher, who are both enthusiastic guests. They talked about how it could be kind of an odd audition process, as Elsie pointed out that you don't often have directors and producers seeing her headshot and grousing that they didn't show the acne she had at the first meeting. Burnham also got the "how much was improvised" question, and he said that it was a much tighter script than most people expect, with only the last scene coming from the kids. They also backfilled a whole bunch of websites so that they could do all of that in-camera, saying that it always looks fake otherwise.

Eighth Grade

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 25 April 2018 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Independent Film Festival Boston, DCP)

There has got to be a way of portraying awkwardness and uncertainty aside from dragging it out, and that Eighth Grade doesn't find it is kind of a bummer, because the are only a few scenes in the movie that don't feel like they are five times longer than they need to be. There are some terrific moments in this movie, and maybe one has to be a bit ground down to appreciate them, but it's entirely possible that I wouldn't get to the good parts of this movie in my living room as opposed to in a crowded theater.

The eighth-grader the audience meets is Kayla (Elsie Fisher), who creates videos on YouTube that very few watch and is frustrated that one of them predicts the "Most Quiet" superlative she's awarded during her last week of junior high. Her dad (Josh Hamilton) doesn't seem to get her, her crush (Luke Prael) is more or less unaware she exists, and the class's most popular girl (Catherine Oliviere) only invited her to the spring pool party because her mother told her to. Her class made time capsules at the end of elementary school, and she's frustrated that she hasn't become the cool teenager she was expecting to be.

Writer/director Bo Burnham has opted to make a film about today's middle-schoolers as of when he shot it in 2017, something he as much as admits is a moving target in-film as high-school students just three or four years older than Kayla talk about how things are different for kids her age than they were for them, even if it's just a matter of how long they've had their own phones and which social media platforms they use. The way Burnham engages with characters on their phones and social media is interesting, though, in that he tends to show it as is, with shots that emphasize the small iPhone screens when the audience needs to see what Kayla is texting or which encourage one to pay attention to their reactions rather than having some sort of balloon pop up with the content. It's a move that reinforces how opaque these conversations can be but doesn't make those involved look like drones.

Full review on EFC

No comments: