Christien is right! We started discussing this movie in this thread but it totally deserves its own thread.
I’m always a sucker for indie coming-of-age films so it’s no surprise how much I loved this movie. The lead, Elsie Fisher, is just great in it. I was rooting for Kayla so goddamn hard in every scene. Heartbreaking and hilarious. Director Bo Burnham comes from the land of youtube and you can tell he’s got a lot of expertise in the video/social media stuff that’s all through the film. A must see, especially for dads who have girls in middle school.
Tonight I’m seeing, Leave no Trace. Tomorrow, Sorry to Bother You with director Q&A after the screening. Woo, movie week while the kids are at camp!
Theatrical Film Releases that don't need their own thread
y this is definitely on my list.
For a number of reasons, that’s a great double feature with Eighth Grade!
Is this a movie you would go to with a high school age daughter (who already is familiar with Bo Burnham, of course)? Or would that be cringe-inducing for her and/or you?
Burnham thinks you should take her!
It’s rated R because of F-bombs and an eighth grader confused and curious about sexuality. It’s frank, but it’s not exploitative. Inasmuch as I think teenage boys should read Catcher in the Rye, I think teenage girls should see Eighth Grade.
@rrmorton, Tom had mentioned Leave No Trace on his stream and I saw it and thought it was excellent. I then got it as a recommendation in his Patreon Review Request video which was cool. :)
I’m jealous that you’re going to get to see a Q and A with the director. I just saw Sorry to Bother You a couple of hours ago and I really enjoyed it, but I have several questions.
Whoof, Leave No Trace was excellent. Such a controlled film with all the damage and weight of the backstory felt around the margins but never confronted directly. I loved how decent and caring and understanding everyone was (including the animals) and how benign the world was for those two characters. Rated PG! So refreshing! And you were right, Tom… That made for a fun, unexpected double feature of father/daughter stories.
@nightgaunt Eighth Grade is toooo-tally worth seeing with a teenage daughter. It flirts with adult content and pushes you outside your comfort zone a few times, but never too far.
I saw it with my daughter who is 14 and heading into 10th grade. I loved watching it with her and she loved it too. She totally identified with Kayla and said it was the most accurate depiction of what middle school is actually like that she’d ever seen. In school, she basically did the same thing as Kayla (and Violet in The Incredibles) and went invisible for a couple years so she really connected with the character.
The movie is pure of heart and good for the soul. I can’t tell you how valuable it was for me to get a glimpse into my daughter’s life and the intensity of her daily experience.
Can’t wait for next semester when I can screen and discuss Eighth Grade alongside Welcome to the Dollhouse and Edge of Seventeen. It’s the same exact movie only different each time.
I haven’t seen this is a while, but I’m not sure I like Todd Solenz mixed in with Eighth Grade and Edge of Seventeen. Welcome to the Dollhouse is such a miserable misanthropic take on childhood. It’s a cruel movie and Todd Solenz just pisses all over everything with his unrelenting misery. But Eighth Grade and Edge of Seventeen are such celebrations, especially Eighth Grade.
Still, it’s really cool that you get to share these movies with your daughter, rrmorton. You sound like a pretty cool dad.
“Dad, you said just one thing!”
“It’s a chunk of things.”
Yeah. Even though I haven’t seen Eighth Grade I have a sense of where it is on the tone meter. I have to go with Tom on this.
I wonder though, in talking about Welcome to the Dollhouse…since I haven’t seen it in so long, where it goes on the spectrum with Towelhead.
“Only because those girls at the pool called me Chewbacca.”
Not even in the same league! I love Welcome to the Dollhouse, but it’s a middle-aged man’s screed about how people suck and you should have probably learned that early on in life, remember? But Towelhead is Alan Ball adapting a young woman’s memoirs detailing what it was like to grow up in Texas with her conservative Arab father. Very vivid setting, vivid characters, and keenly observed coming of age stuff, with a lot of the specificity that comes from memoirs.
It’s also a a sophisticated picture of the push/pull effects of adults in the main character’s life (the obligatory boyfriend subplot is cute, but not very consequential). Aaron Eckhart is really good for how he plays against type in this. But what makes Towelhead exceptional is the complexity of the girl’s relationship with her father on one hand and her opinionated female neighbor on the other. Played by The World’s Greatest Actress Toni Colette, who was very pregnant when they were shooting.
She’s so much fun in Towelhead for how she takes the lead character under her wing. She’s got this great Texas mama grizzly quality to her.
But, yeah, Towelhead is great. I just watched it a little while ago to counterrecommend for this awesome book, which @Clay turned me on to:
Like that’s going to stop them from seeing it.
I’m considering taking our 13 year old daughter, but am wondering about the R rating. She has seen a couple R rated movies with us, but I was wondering how R rated this was?
There are two scenes that deal with sexuality… Not too spoilery but I’ll tag it: One is Kayla taking her curiosity about oral sex to a youtube search. (Nothing graphic is shown. Just an array of How To vids.) The other is a scene where a boy wants something that she’s not ready to offer. She handles both of these scenes the way I’d want my daughter to handle them. So even if you get a little uncomfortable, I think it’s okay. We’ve got teenage daughters… we’re supposed to be uncomfortable.
I’m starting to think that all fathers should watch these uncomfortable movies with their young daughters. I have had some hair raising conversations with my own 19 year old daughter about her experiences in High School that I was completely oblivious to - thank goodness but also to my shame. Adolescence is such a friggin minefield and that is particularly so for young women.
You’re right that tone is the key difference separating Welcome to the Dollhouse from the other two. But I think that difference is as helpful to study as any similarities in the films. It’s amazing to see how mechanically similar the scripts are even though the stories leave you with quite a different lingering feeling afterwards.
And while I think your characterizations are generally fair, I also think you’re exaggerating a bit in both directions when you say “unrelenting misery” and “such celebrations”. I think like any good coming of age story, all three succeed for being some combination of the two. Childlike innocence giving way to adult experience.
Edge of Seventeen is a brother/sister story. Inciting event is the handjob. Climax is the apology to Darian. This paves the way for a classic, upbeat, Hollywood, feel-good ending. She gets a boyfriend.
Eighth Grade is a father/daughter story. Inciting event is the party invite from Kennedy’s mom. Climax is the hug. This is a more emotionally subtle ending of knowing that life is complicated but feeling hope and optimism in spite of that knowledge. She gets a friend who is a boy.
Welcome to the Dollhouse is a me vs. them story. Inciting event is love-at-first sight with Steve Rogers rocking out in the garage. Climax is complete rejection of Dawn as the entire school mocks her in assembly (“Weinerdog! Weinerdog!”) and she stands her ground. She doesn’t get a boyfriend or a friend. Dawn’s brother Mark reassures her, “High school’s better. They’ll call you names but not as much to your face.” This is a keep-going-somehow-in-spite-of-it-all ending. The only ray of hope is pure self reliance. That’s pretty brutal but it also feels essentially true.
Both Eighth Grade and Edge of Seventeen use arriving at and bravely entering a party as the cut to act 2. In Eighth Grade, Kayla is horribly alone. In Edge of Seventeen, Nadine is worse than alone. She’s with her brother and her best friend and they’re together now. Then she’s alone.
Probably the most valuable thing to learn from all three scripts is the technique of providing the protagonist with two supporting characters to bounce between, the sexy bad boy and the lovable dork. Our hero is stuck in the middle, drawn to one or the other in moments of strength or weakness. “Who am I?” or “Who do I want to be?” externalized through the boys to whom their drawn.
Eighth Grade and Edge of Seventeen let their heroes flirt with R-rated danger before learning that the lovable goofball is the better choice. Late in act 2, the change in the main character is reflected in her choosing between these two boys. (Eighth Grade actually uses two bad boy characters. Aiden under the desk and Riley in the car.)
The brilliant thing about Welcome to the Dollhouse is that the boys do a role reversal. Dawn comes to learn that gorgeous, sensitive rocker Steve is actually cruel when he says, “Special means retarded. Your club is for retards.” Meanwhile, Brandon the violent burnout wannabe-rapist turns out to be sensitive and damaged and misunderstood.
We get raw language in all three movies that kind of intrigues, kind of disturbs our young heroines. “Rape” and “finger fucking” in Welcome to the Dollhouse. “Spit or Swallow” in Eighth Grade. Edge of Seventeen (being a high school movie, it’s more advanced in all this) has Nadine compose and accidentally send that message to Nick, “I want to give you head… I want to feel you inside me.”
We get pool scenes with the dorky boys in both Eighth Grade and Edge of Seventeen. Swimming pools are good because wearing bathing suits at that age is not.
Another similarity in both Edge of Seventeen and Welcome to the Dollhouse is late in act 2, getting the protagonist into the home of a supporting character to Learn Something. In Welcome to the Dollhouse, Dawn visits Brandon’s house and learns he has a brother with Down’s Syndrome. In Edge of Seventeen, Nadine visits Mr. Bruner’s house and learns he has a baby. In both stories, that new knowledge helps our heroes realize they didn’t quite have these people pegged the way they thought they did. Maybe they don’t know everything.
Probably the darkest and most compelling thing about Welcome to the Dollhouse is that Dawn doesn’t just take all the abuse hurled at her, she gives it out too. A few times in the film, she’s just flat-out cruel to that younger boy Ralphy who follows her around and belongs to her Special People club. Like child abuse creating child abusers, this feels like a truthful observation about human nature that the other two films aren’t going to confront. It may be dark, but Dollhouse has the courage of its convictions.
Plus it’s the only NYU movie in the bunch! (Bo Burnham got into Tisch but went off and did comedy instead. Little fucker.) I like to screen NYU films for my NYU students because it’s school spirit, baby! I’m proud as hell that the gutsiest, most unrelenting of the three films came out of our program. Todd teaches directing in the grad department now.
Sorry this got so long. I get pretty thrilled by how mechanically similar yet tonally different movies can be across all genres, but especially coming of age films.
Now, where does Lady Bird fit into all this??
Now I am extra sad that Townies never came to fruition…
Ha! Maybe I should rewrite that script.
Sorry if that giant post of mine sailed past “chatting with friends” and strayed too much into “lecture prep for next fall” which it totally was.
I would say this is what struck me the most when I saw it. It gave a really good glimpse of how modern social media plays into a kid’s life. I would be curious as to how this script came to be.
The New Yorker and Marc Maron have got ya covered, mok!
He started having panic attacks on stage and soon realized how his constant anxiety and sense of performing all the time was a feeling shared by middle school girls. I love this quote from the New Yorker piece:
He watched hundreds of teen vlogs; the girls tended to talk about their souls, and the boys about Minecraft, so he made his protagonist a girl.