I don’t imagine many 13 year olds have been nominated for a Golden Globe, although some brief research reveals that Jodie Foster won an Academy Award at the age of 13 for Taxi Driver.
Jodie Foster had an important role in the aforementioned movie but she was playing opposite De Niro at his best so she didn’t have to OWN the movie.
Elsie Fisher OWNS Eighth Grade in a remarkable way and that’s why she was nominated this year. Such a shame she didn’t win because she deserved to.
It opens on an extreme close up monologue of her talking into her laptop’s Photo Booth as she records a self help YouTube film that nobody will ever watch. It closes on the same but with the camera on her face.
In between we experience her life, not her story; her being, her existence.
What’s unusual about the opening is that we see Fisher, warts (well zits) and all, nothing hidden. All her blemishes exposed to the world. Later in an uncomfortable scene we see her at a pool party with a similar degree of intensity.
It’s not pervy, it’s just honest.
This film steers an excruciating course through everything that we all went through, as a thirteen year old. When I say ‘all’ I exclude prom queens from the list because they, in their bubbles of popularity, are immune to the absolute horror show that is being 13, shy and free of attraction from (but not for) the opposite sex.
Add to this the fact that Fisher (playing Kayla Day) is a single child with a single, male, parent (played sympathetically by Josh Hamilton – he has one moment that’s so laugh out loud in a mall that I nearly choked), and the spots, and the puppy fat, and the panic attacks all add up to one hell of an eighth grade (the end of middle school) for Kayla.
Fisher’s performance is mind-blowingly good.
The direction by first time director (and stand up comedian ) Bo Burnham looks like the work of a seasoned pro. It’s stunning.
But the reason I wanted to see the movie, in the first place, was because it was scored by Anna Meredith and the pool party scene I referred to earlier is presented on top of her epic tuba piece called Nautilus. It’s like a cross between Jaws and National Lampoon’s Vacation. The music which BURSTS onto the soundtrack is cranked up to the max and does not disappoint. Bravo Anna.
At one or two points the movie drops into slightly too low a gear, but when it is performing at its most efficient it is at turns hilarious, toe curling, deeply moving, cruel, redemptory and hopeful.
It’s a truly beautiful work of art and I urge you to see it, preferably in the cinema on its very limited UK release.