Eighth Grade (2018)
July 21, 2018 11:36 PM - Subscribe

A deep emotional dive into Kayla's last few weeks of eighth grade.
posted by k8t (13 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This movie was so emotional for me. The whole theatre was cringing.

But why did Olivia become her friend?
posted by k8t at 11:37 PM on July 21, 2018

Oh! I was listening to the soundtrack for this only a couple of days ago (because it's by Anna Meredith, who's amazing). Probably not my kind of movie, but I'm a bit curious to find out about it just because of that.
posted by Grangousier at 2:51 AM on July 22, 2018

But why did Olivia become her friend?

This part rang pretty true to me. I think older kids and teens often step up in surprisingly mature (and very touching) ways when they're given younger kids to mentor, and Olivia seemed genuinely happy and comfortable with herself in a way that reminded me of some of the college students I know. I think that exchanging phone numbers might have been meant as more of a kind gesture, and she wasn't expecting Kayla to get in touch with her, but she was happy to have her tag along on a low-key mall trip. I think it was Kayla who initiated that text (though I may not be remembering it correctly).
posted by Anita Bath at 9:33 AM on July 23, 2018

Oh, man. Oh, man. I thought I might not relate to this movie because I did not grow up in the social media era, but it was on point. I hid my face for entire scenes. The movie had a gift for calling up the exact sensation of a terrible time like the one she had in the backseat -- the time that you're thinking is this how it goes? what do I do? do I want this? nobody else is gonna so I guess I better. God help me, what do I do?

Gabe was absolutely adorable. I liked that she got to go on a date that was awkward in an age-appropriate way but also sweet and respectful.

The main flaw apparent to me was that Kayla's dad was a goddamn saint. She treated him like a dishrag. Of course, even some excellent people went through a phase of treating their parents like that, but usually even the finest of parents explodes at some time. Kayla's dad just takes it. My own dad (and certainly my mom) would have said HELL YES I am staying here at this mall and NO you cannot get a ride home with these boys you do not KNOW them. Dad would cheerfully have offered to back over that iPhone with his truck, too, on multiple occasions.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:28 PM on July 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

The only problem I had with the movie is that I had a hard time believing that she had a videoblog. Though that just might be me projecting my own anxiety onto her.
posted by graventy at 1:50 PM on July 29, 2018

I think it’s tempting to see her dad as a saint because he’s so calm and so affirming, but I also think he’s failing her in some significant ways. He should have told her she couldn’t get a ride home with those boys. He let her get into a situation she wasn’t ready for because he was so excited she had some friends. He handled that really badly, stalking her (bad) and not setting clear boundaries (bad). The cringe-y, anxiety-inducing backseat of the car scene was a direct result of his failings as a parent. Maybe the director intended him to be a model parent, but to me his passivity is the tragic flaw in his fathering style. I love all the affirmation he gives her, but he’s completely missing the rules and boundaries side of things. My middle school daughter certainly doesn’t have unrestricted phone and computer use at bedtime, for example.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:39 PM on July 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

Loved this. It was pitch-perfect. I've seen a lot of reviews play up the social media aspect and... I don't really see it? Actually, I found it really refreshing how social media wasn't sensationalized. I see that the director is only 27 and was a former YouTuber - it makes sense that he actually gets what kids do on the internet.
posted by airmail at 10:06 PM on July 30, 2018

I realise this is a bit odd, and that I'm the only one who's that interested, but here's an interview with Anna Meredith about doing the score for the film.
posted by Grangousier at 1:41 PM on August 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

Airmail, I also came into it thinking it would be a jeremiad against social media and was glad to see that it wasn't. I did find it funny that the first four or so minutes were completely devoted to how intertwined her life and social media were but then that theme went undeveloped.

I sort of disagreed with the movie's treatment of Kennedy at the end. We're supposed to think that Kayla's long rant against her is some sort of triumphant moment, but I don't think it's fair to Kennedy. We don't ever actually see Kennedy being mean to Kayla- she just doesn't want to be friends with her and is being sort of tactless about it. Tactlessness isn't a great quality to have but who doesn't have it at 13?

Kayla seems to think Kennedy owes her friendship because she's sought it out, but that isn't how human relationships- sexual or otherwise- work. People never owe you intimacy, regardless of how much effort you put into getting it. Especially since Kayla seems interested in Kennedy solely because she's popular- she really has absolutely nothing else in common with her! She judges Kennedy for not looking past her surface when she's only looking at Kennedy's surface.

The entire thing reminded me of the whole incel movement- conventionally unattractive men thinking that hot, beautiful women are their right if they're nice enough to them. Obviously Kayla's cluelessness isn't at the same level as the cruelty and evil found in the incel community, but it does have at its root the same problem: people denying other people their humanity and agency.
posted by perplexion at 7:34 AM on August 6, 2018

perplexion, I didn't see Kayla's rant against Kennedy as a comeuppance for Kennedy. I think you're meant to sympathize with Kayla, but she's clearly over-the-top (or you sympathize because she's over-the-top and you remember how you were like as a kid). She writes an entire letter. The rant all comes out in a jumble. Both times, Kennedy just gives her a side-eye and that's all - she doesn't get humiliated, far from it. The triumph is Kayla realizing she shouldn't keep pursuing people who aren't interested in her.

I also thought also the speech Kayla's dad gives at the end frames Kayla's differences from Kennedy quite nicely. Her dad says something like "I was so worried about teaching all the things you would have to know, like being kind, and caring about other people, but it came to you naturally." In contrast, Kennedy isn't good at this emotional labour - her mother has to keep prompting her to invite Kayla to the party, and she has no idea how to tactfully turn Kayla down. Compare this with how Kayla handles Gabe, who weirds her out, but at least she attempts to be polite. Kennedy might be popular, but Kayla has her own strengths, as well, and I thought it was good how the movie actually showed it instead of just handwaving it like "everyone is special, also the popular girl is obviously evil."
posted by airmail at 7:42 PM on August 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

We don't ever actually see Kennedy being mean to Kayla- she just doesn't want to be friends with her and is being sort of tactless about it.

Nah, exclusion, eye rolling, pointed looks to other girls--that's how bullying works with girls. You don't need to be outwardly mean to essentially torture another person.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:52 AM on August 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

I don't think the movie is portraying the dad as perfect. He's not horrible, but the mean way to say it is he's a doormat. The pool party happens at all becaus Kennedy's mom feels like she owes the dad something.. It's easy to imagine her taking advantage of him and dumping things on him given how pushy she is with Kayla.

He tells Kayla all the time how great she is, but he doesn't seem to have helped her do things that would help her feel great for herself. In the beginning of the movie she is palpably angry at how useless he is to her, in more than a usual teen amount IMHO. The breakthrough comes when he talks about raising her after her mom left and makes himself human, and I think that scene is about Kayla accepting the value of what her dad can provide (not that it's a magic cureall), and being at peace with what he can't.

Anyway I loved the moment when Kayla hesitates to go out in the pool area and the horror-like music kicks in, and all the kids are out there making monsters of themselves spitting water, turning their eyelids inside out, doing spider walks, etc.
posted by fleacircus at 8:45 PM on November 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Grangousier, several years late, but thanks for the link to the interview with Anna Meredith. Lovely insight into the process.
I loved this film. It has so much compassion for all its characters. Flaws and all.
posted by Zumbador at 10:40 AM on December 26, 2021

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