‘Eighth Grade’ reviews: Critically hailed Sundance hit could turn out to be a middle-school ‘Lady Bird’

Eighth Grade” opened on July 13 — Friday the 13th, though that doesn’t appear to be bad luck for the film, which has received some of the year’s best reviews. The film boasts a score of 90 on MetaCritic and a 98% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s early yet to declare surefire Oscar contenders, but given its acclaim and “poignant,” “empathetic” point-of-view, it looks like it has the potential to be a middle-school “Lady Bird.”

This is the feature writing and directing debut of 27-year-old comedian Bo Burnham, who has previously appeared as an actor in “The Big Sick” and as a guest star on shows like “Parks and Recreation” and “Key and Peele,” in addition to his stand-up comedy. He has directed two of his own TV comedy specials as well as additional specials for Jerrod Carmichael and Chris Rock.

Now he has gone behind the camera for this coming-of-age story about 13-year-old Kayla (Elsie Fisher), who struggles awkwardly through her last week in the eighth grade before leaving to start high school. After premiering at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year it’s opening in theaters at almost exactly the same time of year that “The Big Sick” opened (July 14, 2017) before it went on an awards run that culminated in an Oscar bid for Best Original Screenplay for Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon.

And “Eighth Grade” is being distributed by A24, the indie film company that recently released Oscar winners like “Ex Machina,” “Amy,” “Room” and Best Picture champ “Moonlight,” plus additional Oscar nominees like “The Florida Project” and, yes, “Lady Bird.”

Do you think “Eighth Grade” will be a sleeper Oscar hit? Check out some of the reviews below, and discuss this and more with your fellow movie fans in our forums:

Manohla Dargis (New York Times): “There are few more poignant, exasperating creatures than teenage girls. (I speak from personal experience.) And rarely are they as heart-pangingly real as the girl fumbling through the sharp, smart comedy ‘Eighth Grade’ … Mr. Burnham understands that some of the most pronounced extremes — the drama, the comedy, the horror — take place in that lonely room known as our heads.”

Dana Stevens (Slate): “Bo Burnham’s funny, original debut feature is astonishingly mature … ‘Eighth Grade’ could never hit the heights it does without the right actress in the demanding lead role. Elsie Fisher — who was only 14 when the movie premiered at Sundance … delivers her ‘like’-heavy dialogue with such naturalism you might think the lines are improvised.”

Kate Erbland (IndieWire): “You’re going to fall in love with Elsie Fisher. As the breakout star and big, beating heart of Bo Burnham’s feature directorial debut, ‘Eighth Grade,’ Fisher is tasked with carrying an entire film — an achingly real, firmly modern coming-of-age tale – with honesty and vulnerability to spare. “

Emily Yoshida (Vulture): “Burnham’s direction is patient and endlessly empathetic; it’s an out-of-the-gate confidence that is as pleasantly surprising as fellow comedian turned auteur Jordan Peele’s … But as far as revelatory debuts, it’s rivaled by that of Elsie Fisher, who embodies Kayla’s anxiety and yearning with an almost spooky self-awareness.”

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