Filmmakers never shy away from a good coming-of-age tale. The best storytellers create specific but universally interesting tales that viewers can relate to, no matter their age. Sure, these movies tend to pull at the heartstrings but they can also dish out a lot of humor. That’s very much the case for Bo Burnham’s upcoming feature film and directorial debut, EIGHTH GRADE.
Burnham’s name might ring a bell, and his journey to becoming a feature film director is interesting. There isn’t a single path to success, and Bo Burnham found his own unique route. He started out making YouTube videos; now he’s writing and directing full-length films.
Here is everything you need to know about Bo Burnham and his upcoming film, EIGHTH GRADE.
A Jack Of All Trades
Bo Burnham is best known as a comedian, but the 27-year-old does it all. He is a singer, songwriter, rapper, poet, actor, screenwriter, and now a director. Back in 2006, Burnham became an overnight sensation thanks to his YouTube videos, and quickly pursued a comedy career. His stand-up performances were marked by a satirical approach to social topics and opened many doors for him in the world of comedy.
Besides recording multiple albums, Burnham had his own live comedy special and developed relationships with Comedy Central and Netflix. He co-created and starred in an MTV series Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous, which aired in 2013. Since then, Burnham appeared in a few movies but he was also hard at work writing Eighth Grade. Serving as the director gives Burnham the control to tell the special story he set out to create. Considering the source material, it’s clearly very special to him.
The Difficulties Of Adolescence
EIGHTH GRADE is about Kayla, a quiet teenager navigating the last week of middle school before entering the wild world of high school. To her classmates, Kayla is shy; she’s given the dubious award of “Most Silent” in her class. But at home, in front of her camera, Kayla is a completely different person. She makes YouTube videos about self-love and the importance of exuding confidence. The coming-of-age story shares both the awkwardness of being a teen and the struggles of adolescent anxiety that evolves as they get older.
Comedy is the film’s primary tool, but in key moments it will express more serious thoughts that are pertinent to today’s world. In one scene, classes practice the sort of school shooter drill which has become common in American education. Another plot point is tied to Kayla’s inexperience in love. Burnham shared his thoughts about the moment with Vulture:
“Without getting too specific, the idea of being young and taken advantage of by someone older than you is not foreign to me personally. I felt that it’s true, it’s something that happens, and it needs to be shown.”
Burnham tackles sensitive topics in ways that connect with viewers who have experienced similar situations. Whether battling self-image at a pool party or dealing with everyday life at school and work, Burnham reminds us that all people have their struggles.
The cast includes faces that will be new to many audiences. Elsie Fisher will undoubtedly receive the most praise for her notable performance as the main character, Kayla. If you don’t know her face, her voice might still be familiar; she voiced Agnes in the first two Despicable Me movies. Her performance also shines when she is working alongside her father, played by Josh Hamilton.
EIGHTH GRADE premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and played so well there that it currently holds a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on nearly three dozen reviews. The film hits theaters everywhere in July, and we’re excited for audiences to see a new side of Bo Burnham, and to enjoy the start of his feature filmmaking career.
EIGHTH GRADE hits theaters on July 13, 2018.