AFI Movie Club: EIGHTH GRADE
EIGHTH GRADE is directed by Bo Burnham and stars Elsie Fisher in a startlingly honest performance as a shy middle school student gradually coming out of her shell. This nuanced coming-of-age film was honored with an AFI AWARD in 2018 – recognizing it as one of the 10 outstanding films deemed culturally and artistically representative of the year’s most significant achievements in the art of the moving image.
Movie Trivia About EIGHTH GRADE
DID YOU KNOW? EIGHTH GRADE marked writer/director Bo Burnham’s feature film debut. As a 28-year-old comedian, Burnham had experienced severe anxiety and started writing the script in 2014 as a way to explore his personal issues.
DID YOU KNOW? Elsie Fisher, who was previously best known for her voice performance in the DESPICABLE ME films, went on to receive a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress—Motion Picture Comedy of Musical for the role of Kayla.
DID YOU KNOW? EIGHTH GRADE was financed by independent companies for a low budget of $2 million. It went on to receive commercial and critical acclaim, earning more than $13 million and winning numerous accolades, including an AFI AWARD.
DID YOU KNOW? EIGHTH GRADE was originally titled THE COOLEST GIRL IN THE WORLD.
DID YOU KNOW? Shooting took place in Suffern, New York, in the summer of 2017. Real-life teachers and students at Suffern Middle School were cast as background actors.
DID YOU KNOW? Writer/director Bo Burnham used actual phones and laptops to portray text chats and video blogs, instead of capturing them on film or with visual effects. Prop Instagram and Twitter accounts were created for the production.
DID YOU KNOW? Post-production was completed three days before EIGHTH GRADE premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2018, where it was entered into the Grand Jury Prize competition.
DID YOU KNOW? Although EIGHTH GRADE was rated R by the MPAA, the filmmakers refused to edit it for a PG-13 rating, which would have vastly expanded its audience to include the youths who were portrayed onscreen. Studio A24 offered teens one unrated screening, free of cost, in each U.S. state to provide limited access to the film.
DID YOU KNOW? Despite its R-rating, EIGHTH GRADE was a box-office success with adult audiences and had the highest average per screen in 2018 at the time of its release. It was ultimately the sixth highest-grossing American indie film of summer 2018.
DID YOU KNOW? Along with winning an AFI AWARD for being one of the best movies of 2018, EIGHTH GRADE was honored with two awards from the National Board of Review. Bo Burnham received the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding First-Time Feature and the Best Original Screenplay award from the Writers Guild of America. EIGHTH GRADE was also nominated for four Independent Spirit Awards.
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-While EIGHTH GRADE was hailed for its authentic representation of an awkward teenaged girl, it was written and directed by an adult male. Do you think this discrepancy between the age and gender of the storyteller and his protagonist impacts the narrative? Can grownups truly understand issues faced by kids of a different generation? What parts of the film do you think were most successful at depicting teen life?
-EIGHTH GRADE is about young adults, but it was rated R by the MPAA, ostensibly making it inaccessible to teen audiences. Although the filmmakers were given the opportunity to appeal the rating – by editing sexually explicit content to receive a PG-13 – they opted to keep the film in its original version. Would you have made the same choice? If you were on the board of the MPAA, would you have given EIGHTH GRADE an R-rating?
-Describe the role social media has in the portrayal of Kayla’s character. Does it make the movie appear more realistic, or do the scenes shot as YouTube videos create a sense of distance?
-Why do you think Kayla comes alive when in front of her own camera, while she is so quiet and awkward in her onscreen “real” life? How does EIGHTH GRADE use movies within the movie to depict different layers of Kayla’s personality?
-Has social media changed since EIGHTH GRADE was released two years ago? Do you think it’s difficult to come of age in a cultural landscape that evolves so quickly? Why or why not?
-EIGHTH GRADE was released in the wake of #MeToo and #TimesUp, in which women in Hollywood were coming forward with such extensive stories of sexual misconduct that the industry was finally forced to reckon with its own misogyny. Critics interpreted Kayla’s sexual intimidation by older boys as an analogy to this cultural change, and Bo Burnham mentioned in an interview that the film “portrays a certain type of toxic male behavior that advertises itself as sweet and understanding and sensitive but is anything but.” Do you see a correlation between Hollywood’s exploitation of female sexuality in Kayla’s story?
-How does Kayla use moving images via YouTube as a way to seek self-empowerment? Why does she struggle to be seen?
-Bo Burnham initially conceived EIGHTH GRADE as an intersection of 10 different characters but found that he could condense various perspectives into one teenaged girl. Do you see how Kayla embodies contrasting personalities?
-Describe Kayla’s time capsules. How does her sixth-grade self differ from her new role as a budding high schooler, and what does she realize about her life changes?
-How would you rate EIGHTH GRADE?
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