What is fascinating about recent films is how some very good movies have focused on single fathers raising a daughter. While I have already reviewed both Hearts Beat Loud and Leave No Trace, they both left an impact on the viewer that you rarely experience.
Now we have Eighth Grade, a film directed by Bo Burnham that centers on an eighth grade female student about to graduate. Her name is Kayla, and she lives with her single father who is doing his best to provide her with some guidance and inspiration.
While this film has been widely praised, I found it to be a bit repetitive and overdone. Having thought about that reaction, I think it is primarily due to the fact that as a man I simply couldn’t fully relate to what was occurring on screen.
Put another way, this is first and foremost a movie for women of any age or for men who raise daughters. I am afraid I don’t qualify in any of those categories, as my only child was a boy.
The importance of this film flows from the simple fact that it shows a rarely seen picture of every female child’s transformation as they approach high school. Young Isla Fisher gives a startlingly engaging performance as a kid wrestling with her social standing in her tiny little world.
She focuses on her physical appearance as she fights teenage acne and the development of her own body. While she wants to be accepted by girls in her class that enjoy being the center of attention, she faces continual disappointment on being left on the fringes of a world she is fighting to understand.
The best way to describe Kayla’s journey is seen in the trailer where she is attending a party at the pool of a classmate who really doesn’t care for her. As you see her walk uncomfortably to the pool’s edge in a full swimsuit as opposed to the two piece suits worn by the other girls, she quickly dives under the water for obvious reasons. While this is a little girl who desperately wants to fit in, she has yet to learn how to do so.
From my male standpoint, the movie lost a bit of its impact as I watched Kayla’s borderline resentment of a caring father while repeatedly taping videos to give advice on life. Though it was hard not to like Mr. Hamilton’s role as Kayla’s dad, his attempts to connect with her at the dinner table only served to irritate his daughter. It is also worth noting that there was no mention as to what happened to her mother.
As she meanders through life, Kayla recognizes that the handsome young male classmate that she moons over is little more than a jerk. In the process she further realizes that a young boy who attracts little meaningful attention is a worthy companion.
This film forced me to recognize my own limitations when it comes to reviewing certain films. Something was happening in this movie that I sensed but couldn’t completely embrace, and for that I apologize. I can only encourage you to see this film and let me know what you think.