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Movie Review - Eighth Grade

The film "Eight Grade" shows adolescents as it is for many pre-teens, directed by YouTube star Bo Burnham, about going through adolescence.  In this extremely realistic drama (not your typical Hollywood movie), a socially awkward teen girl navigates the painful territory between middle school and high school. 

This movie while edgy has a brave and hopeful main character and delivers messages about self-love and setting boundaries. There's so much here for parents and their teens to unpack, from mean-girl behavior and too much/inappropriate screen use to the importance of being careful around older teens (particularly for girls) and saying no to unwanted sexual advances. Ultimately, it also promotes open communication between teens and their parents, as well as courage, since Kayla learns to love and speak up for herself. It is rated "R", but most reviews say it is appropriate for 14 and up. Read on to see if it is right for your family to watch together. 

Every child is different and some will relate fully with the movie while others may feel it doesn't depict their own experience in middle school. I watched the movie with a 12-year-old and her Grandmother who is raising her. There were a small handful of scenes that I wondered how they were handling it, however, after the movie we talked about these scenes and had some great discussions.  

In my personal opinion, some kids younger than 14 could watch this movie with a parent. If you have had open and honest talks already with your child about sex and social media (or are a Talk graduate) I think the movie could be an excellent teachable moment to revisit these topics and introduce topics like sexting, oral sex, and dealing with sexual pressure. If your kids are asking to go see it, take them with the caveat that afterward you are getting ice cream and talking about it. Otherwise, you could probably hold off on the theater outing and rent it on Redbox in a few months. 

Things to watch for

In an opening scene (first 5 minutes) a boy appears to masturbate in class. Throughout expect to hear some profanity like "F-bombs," "The S-word" & more.  Teens talk about hook-ups including a scene on looking up how to give oral sex, playing truth or dare, and sharing nude photos. 

Questions to talk about after the film:

1. What makes Kayla relatable? In what ways is she a role model? In what ways is she not?

2. Talk about boundaries and limits on screen use. Are social media and screen time depicted accurately in the film? Do you have rules about device use at night, mealtime, or in your bedroom?   Has your family ever tried a "device-free dinner"? If not, give it a try. 

3. Kayla has a crush on a boy named Aiden at school. She hears he only goes out with girls who give him nude pictures. Discuss the scene when she tries to get his attention and tells him she has a folder of dirty photos. He then asks her if she gives blowjobs. Embarrassed and not really knowing what those are she says, "yes" and then looks up how to do give them online. There are a lot of directions you could go when discussing this scene. How if someone really likes you they are not just interested in your body or what your body could do for them. That looking up sexual things online could bring up some videos and images that may be "TMI" (Too much information). That sharing inappropriate photos is not a way to get someone to like you. The list goes on!  

4. How does the movie promote parent-teen communication? Does the movie exaggerate these relationships for humor? In what ways could Kayla communicate better with her Dad and what might be the reason she struggles? In what ways could Kayla's Dad be a more involved parent? 

5. Discuss the Truth or Dare scene. Talk about trying to fit in, the importance of safety, and how to handle sexual pressure. How did the older teen try to take advantage of Kayla and did she need to feel sorry or embarrassed about how she said "no" to him? Kayla could have been hurt in this scene, but luckily wasn't. Talk about that as well. 

What parents say

Below are a few actual reviews posted on CommonSenseMedia.org to help you make a final decision about whether or not this film is right for your family.  https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/eighth-grade

A Must See for All Teens & Parents

My girlfriend and I saw this movie at Sundance and fell in love with the main character and the message she delivered. We swore to take our middle school aged boys the moment the movie was released. It took us right back to our own eighth-grade years - the highs, the lows and the struggles of discovering who you are as a person. The writer and director of this movie (the adorable, Bo Burnham) is a young man who captures the heart of being a young teen. My friend and I were so touched by Bo's down to earth nature during a Q&A panel following the movie. And as it turns out, we were sitting right next to his parents . . . modest and beaming at their son's clear success of delivering a powerful message. This is a MUST see for parents and their kids. (Note - I fear some may be hesitant to see since it received the rating of R. I think this is a shame. Yes, there is cursing and a sexual situation but given all that can be learned and discussed from this movie, I don't understand why it's not PG-13.)

#relatable

Eighth Grade is a cringe-inducing look at a teen’s awkward and anxious search for identity in a world dominated by screens. I saw this with my 13 and 15-year-old daughters, which was uncomfortable at times, but we frequently turned to one another with commiserating laughter. My children debated how realistic the movie was in terms of clothing, lingo, and behavior, but we all agreed that much of the film was spot-on for this generation. As a parent, I related to the father's baffled but earnest reactions to his daughter Kayla’s wild emotions. It seems that we never know the right thing to say, but just being present in the moment is often all they need. A family behind us walked out during a scene where Kayla is researching explicit tutorials on YouTube, but I thought the scene ended well and was appropriate for this new generation that has access to information but is still relatively innocent. There is a worrisome scene where an older boy pressures Kayla to take off her shirt, but it’s ultimately a good point for family discussion. As with many teen films, one takeaway of this movie is "It gets better" after middle school, but there is a darker and more urgent question about the negative mental health effects of social media on our children.
 

Listen to the R rating

I checked the ratings here before I took my daughter to see this movie today. I didn't check closely enough because this is certainly not a movie for 12+ We left about 45 minutes in when the main character, Kayla, was researching oral sex on youtube and someone in a video was holding a sex toy. It's in the review here but honestly, it was on screen longer than the review says. My 14-year-old was really uncomfortable. It had a lot of relatable plot up until that moment. Too much phone and social media use. Snappy teen tired of her parent trying to connect. Feeling like an outsider. I think listening to the R rating is a good bet. Maybe my daughter is a young 14 or I am just lucky, but she felt the movie was too grown up and not at all what she and her eighth-grade friends are dealing with.

What kids say:

Teen, 14 yrs old       The MPAA Doesn't Get Teenagers 

I went to see Eighth Grade this afternoon with a friend of mine. We had just graduated Eighth Grade ourselves this last May. To me, it's shocking to me that this movie gets an R rating, and really defeats the purpose of the rating system and of the movie. There is no onscreen violence. There are no drugs. There is no drinking. No smoking. There is no sex onscreen. We've had more graphic discussions of sex in our sex ed classes at school than the ones found in this movie. It's a natural part of the things teens talk about. Why censor it from them? And, even if you are still concerned, the times when sexual activities are discussed, the result is very positive and it puts in perspective how ridiculous the sexual standards that society places on young people, particularly young girls are. In one scene, when a character starts to go too far in a game of truth or dare with the lead character, she exercises her power to say no, regardless of the pressure at play. This is one of the most valuable lessons for a teen, particularly a teen girl to see. In addition, there is some cursing, but let's be real. I'm very sorry to parents who try their best to scrub their children lives free of anything that's not cute and filled with butterflies and hummingbirds, but despite your best intentions, every teen uses or at least hears these words on a regular basis. This movie isn't going to change that. These words are also only used sporadically throughout the film, and in many cases are easy to miss. The film also has positive messages surrounding family, the ways we need to practice human connection in the digital age, and how to handle the internet with young people. The film explores both sides of the last point. On the one hand, it's a great tool for self-expression, as we see with the main character. But on the other hand, we also see the negative sides, and how it affects human interaction. Overall, this movie felt real. It wasn't overly slick or overly dramatized like teen movies almost always are. There were no gang clashes, or prom dates, or any of the typical flamboyance that plagues teen movies. The characters were relatable. This movie perfectly captured my admiration for and my frustration with my generation. This is the type of movie we need more of in our 21st-century world. Real teenagers playing real teenage characters. The bottom line is, if you're a hesitant parent, buy your child a ticket to see this movie. End of story.
 
Teen, 13 yrs old           SO SO RELATABLE
 
I love this movie because it is real. it is not all about teenage girls being pretty and popular at high school with an amazing boyfriend and becoming a pop star. it is so true to life and such a wake-up call to society about the way that teen girls really feel and what life for them is really like that it could be a documentary. Because it's so real it does show what teens are really like. the language they really use, the things they really talk about and the way they really act and treat each other. There's nothing in this movie that a 12-year-old probably won't have already experienced first hand themselves in class. Eighth grade makes you cry, laugh and a mixture of both. I'd give it 5/5 stars for positive messages because the whole context of the film is about responsibility and finding the perfect way to be yourself. I'd give it a 5/5 for great role models, some people would argue against that because the character is not 100% perfect. Nobody's perfect which is just another example of the raw and beautiful reality of this movie. 2/5 there is very little violence. teens talk about hooking up and stuff like (once again an example of what it is REALLY like to be a teen of 2018). There's also some other stuff so I'd give it a 2/5. The language is strong but its real. I think there is a large amount of cussing but there is not 'too much' as the whole point of this movie is the reality.
 

Teen, 14 yrs old         PG13. Painfully realistic.

I saw other reviews that disagreed with the reality but they are just lucky. I know how it feels to be an outcast and I really could relate to Kayla. My dad watched it with me and it also brought back memories for him. AND IT's KID FRIENDLY. The only thing that might be a little too much in the scene that this high school senior tries to have sex with Kayla. There is this verbal lesson on how to give and receive oral sex. It made me cringe. But other than that it's actually a really good movie. I know it's not playing in that many places but FIND A SHOWTIME AND WATCH!
 
So what do you think?  If you have seen the movie we'd love to hear your comments about it below!  
 
Gucci!  ;) 
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