My appreciation of this film has gone up for my second viewing. It’s honestly genius. Anchored by one of the most overlooked leading performances of the year by Elsie Fisher, the movie just oozes raw honesty from start to finish.
Cinema at its best is a vehicle for empathy and I, this 29 year old millennial man, felt fully in the shoes of an anxious 13 year old girl for the full runtime. The way in which Burnham is able to keep the story so small yet the stakes so colossal is mind boggling. Your heart absolutely bleeds for Kayla throughout the whole movie. We have all been in these situations at one time or another, I don’t think there is anyone that can’t precisely relate to scenes in this film. It’s rare for me to watch a “coming of age” film and truly feel like I learned something or got a new perspective on growing up. We all want to connect, or fit in, or be successful in life. Those feelings never go away as you get older, you just become more skilled at masking your vulnerabilities. I thought it was really effective to take those very relatable feelings and put them under this magnifying glass during one of the most vulnerable, akward, confusing years of childhood.
I love how he was able to visually convey the absurdity of eighth grade, without ever expositing it. He made a middle school pool party look like the horrifying first steps on an alien planet, all using visual language and music. It immediately makes you feel as out of place as Kayla must feel in that moment.
It is such a balanced script, with raw emotion and a beautiful arc for Kayla. It’s refreshing to see such an honest and uncynical movie in 2018. I’m so glad Bo Burnham didn’t take the typical advice of “write what you know”. Somehow, this 28 year old male comedian was able to find an authentic voice for each of these characters. It never felt like an adults interpretation of childhood. The kids were kids, the high schoolers looked and talked like high schoolers. He started with this very honest and relatable emotional core and then built this rich, layered environment and characters around it. I hope he continues to write outside his element.