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'Eighth Grade' Keeps it Real at the Summer KCET Cinema Series on July 10th

Q&A immediately following with star Elsie Fisher and writer/director Bo Burnham

It is a truth universally acknowledged that everyone has had to suffer through the humiliation of eighth grade. Simultaneously unbearable and thrilling, cringe-worthy and exhilarating…junior high is not easy and most of us would prefer to forget it. While it seems that today’s kids seek connection more than any other generation (living with a constant hyper awareness as they document life while in the process of living it, chasing a high of validation from friends and strangers online), the vastness of the internet and lack of true personal connection may cause them to feel more alone than ever. On the edge of thirteen, eighth grader Kayla has reached peak awkwardness but remains adorably earnest, acne and all; whether she’s trying to impress a boy who has who has mastered that too-cool-for-school stare or posting motivational videos online (likely directed to her true self) while coping with the pressure of contemporary suburban adolescence.

Faced with the looming terror that is high school, until you find your own tribe of like-minded weirdos there, eighth grade is a scary time to be a teenager. Possibly even scarier if you’re a parent (in a world where school shooting drills have become so commonplace that bored kids roll their eyes when forced to participate), played here to perfection by Josh Hamilton who might just win the World’s Best Dad Award…second only to Michael Stuhlbarg in “Call Me By Your Name”. Not since “Little Miss Sunshine” will you find yourself so passionately rooting for a film’s heartbreaking heroine as she makes her way through the last week of middle school and the end of her disastrous eighth grade year.

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Deep down, we are all just one pimple away from our most vulnerable adolescent selves...hoping to make friends and have everyone like us without wanting anyone to know how hard we are trying. Burnham has really tapped into a universal truth and found his unlikely on-screen avatar in a virtuoso performance from Elsie Fisher. Weren’t we all once that scared prepubescent kid at a pool party feeling alternately excited, bored and terrified? We are all still that kid, perpetual bratty teenagers in arrested development. Growing up is hard to do and it wasn’t so long ago that we were children pretending to act like grown ups. Let’s not be so hard on ourselves and be a little nicer to that kid in each other. Hopefully this movie offers a nostalgic throwback to what we thought were simpler days of youth that weren’t so simple in hindsight…with a glimmer of hope that the things we agonized over didn’t turn out so terribly after all. It gets better.

Burnham proposes that his film, which has debuted to overwhelmingly positive reviews, is made all the more timely for adult audiences by the divisive climate of American life. "I can examine the current culture through kids that are feeling, by default, just how I'm feeling, which is unsure, and lost, and grasping at the world and trying to find meaning." He adds: "It feels like the country has turned into eighth grade a little bit."

Nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, “Eighth Grade” will be released in select theaters on July 13 by A24. The film’s star Elsie Fisher and writer/director Bo Burnham will be in attendance for a Q&A session immediately following the screening with host Pete Hammond who can also be seen in KCET’s Must See Movies.

The summer season of the KCET Cinema Series is generously sponsored by the James and Paula Coburn Foundation as well as Deadline.com. The season began on June 5th and runs through July 31st. Season passes are available online via Eventbrite and individual admissions are available at the door for $25 each.

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